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Science. 2014 Feb 28;343(6174):1006-10. doi: 10.1126/science.1245994. Epub 2014 Jan 30.

Phonetic feature encoding in human superior temporal gyrus.

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Department of Neurological Surgery, Department of Physiology, and Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


During speech perception, linguistic elements such as consonants and vowels are extracted from a complex acoustic speech signal. The superior temporal gyrus (STG) participates in high-order auditory processing of speech, but how it encodes phonetic information is poorly understood. We used high-density direct cortical surface recordings in humans while they listened to natural, continuous speech to reveal the STG representation of the entire English phonetic inventory. At single electrodes, we found response selectivity to distinct phonetic features. Encoding of acoustic properties was mediated by a distributed population response. Phonetic features could be directly related to tuning for spectrotemporal acoustic cues, some of which were encoded in a nonlinear fashion or by integration of multiple cues. These findings demonstrate the acoustic-phonetic representation of speech in human STG.

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