On the context-dependent nature of the contribution of the ventral premotor cortex to speech perception

Pascale Tremblay, Steven L. Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

What is the nature of the interface between speech perception and production, where auditory and motor representations converge? One set of explanations suggests that during perception, the motor circuits involved in producing a perceived action are in some way enacting the action without actually causing movement (covert simulation) or sending along the motor information to be used to predict its sensory consequences (i.e., efference copy). Other accounts either reject entirely the involvement of motor representations in perception, or explain their role as being more supportive than integral, and not employing the identical circuits used in production. Using fMRI, we investigated whether there are brain regions that are conjointly active for both speech perception and production, and whether these regions are sensitive to articulatory (syllabic) complexity during both processes, which is predicted by a covert simulation account. A group of healthy young adults (1) observed a female speaker produce a set of familiar words (perception), and (2) observed and then repeated the words (production). There were two types of words, varying in articulatory complexity, as measured by the presence or absence of consonant clusters. The simple words contained no consonant cluster (e.g. " palace"), while the complex words contained one to three consonant clusters (e.g. "planet"). Results indicate that the left ventral premotor cortex (PMv) was significantly active during speech perception and speech production but that activation in this region was scaled to articulatory complexity only during speech production, revealing an incompletely specified efferent motor signal during speech perception. The right planum temporal (PT) was also active during speech perception and speech production, and activation in this region was scaled to articulatory complexity during both production and perception. These findings are discussed in the context of current theories of speech perception, with particular attention to accounts that include an explanatory role for mirror neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1561-1571
Number of pages11
JournalNeuroImage
Volume57
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 15 2011
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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