The neural substrates underlying speech perception are still not well understood. Previously, we found dissociation of speech and nonspeech processing at the earliest cortical level (AI), using speech and nonspeech complexity dimensions. Acoustic differences between speech and nonspeech stimuli in imaging studies, however, confound the search for linguistic– phonetic regions. Presently, we used sinewave speech (SWsp) and nonspeech (SWnon), which replace speech formants with sinewave tones, in order to match acoustic spectral and temporal complexity while contrasting phonetics. Chord progressions (CP) were used to remove the effects of auditory coherence and object processing.
Twelve normal RH volunteers were scanned with fMRI while listening to SWsp, SWnon, CP, and a baseline condition arranged in blocks. Only two brain regions, in bilateral superior temporal sulcus, extending more posteriorly on the left, were found to prefer the SWsp condition after accounting for acoustic modulation and coherence effects. Two regions responded preferentially to the more frequency-modulated stimuli, including one that overlapped the right temporal phonetic area and another in the left angular gyrus far from the phonetic area. These findings are proposed to form the basis for the two subtypes of auditory word deafness. Several brain regions, including auditory and nonauditory areas, preferred the coherent auditory stimuli and are likely involved in auditory object recognition. The design of the current study allowed for separation of acoustic spectrotemporal, object recognition, and phonetic effects resulting in distinct and overlapping components.
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