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J Neurosci. 2013 Oct 9;33(41):16110-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2137-13.2013.

What does motor efference copy represent? Evidence from speech production.

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Departments of Otolaryngology and Radiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143.


How precisely does the brain predict the sensory consequences of our actions? Efference copy is thought to reflect the predicted sensation of self-produced motor acts, such as the auditory feedback heard while speaking. Here, we use magnetoencephalographic imaging (MEG-I) in human speakers to demonstrate that efference copy prediction does not track movement variability across repetitions of the same motor task. Specifically, spoken vowels were less accurately predicted when they were less similar to a speaker's median production, even though the prediction is thought to be based on the very motor commands that generate each vowel. Auditory cortical responses to less prototypical speech productions were less suppressed, resembling responses to speech errors, and were correlated with later corrective movement, suggesting that the suppression may be functionally significant for error correction. The failure of the motor system to accurately predict less prototypical speech productions suggests that the efferent-driven suppression does not reflect a sensory prediction, but a sensory goal.

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