Effective connectivity analysis demonstrates involvement of premotor cortex during speech perception

Research Area: Research Year: 2010
Type of Publication: Article
Authors: Osnes, Berge; Hugdahl, Kenneth; Specht, Karsten
Several reports of premotor cortex involvement in speech perception have been put forward. Still, the functional role of premotor cortex is under debate. In order to investigate the functional role of premotor cortex, we presented parametrically varied speech stimuli in both a behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. White noise was transformed over seven distinct steps into a speech sound and presented to the participants in a randomized order. As control condition served the same transformation from white noise into a music instrument sound. The fMRI data were modelled with Dynamic Causal Modeling (DCM) where the effective connectivity between Heschl's gyrus, planum temporale, superior temporal sulcus and premotor cortex were tested. The fMRI results revealed a graded increase in activation in the left superior temporal sulcus. Premotor cortex activity was only present at an intermediate step when the speech sounds became identifiable but were still distorted but was not present when the speech sounds were clearly perceivable. A Bayesian model selection procedure favored a model that contained significant interconnections between Heschl's gyrus, planum temporal, and superior temporal sulcus when processing speech sounds. In addition, bidirectional connections between premotor cortex and superior temporal sulcus and from planum temporale to premotor cortex were significant. Processing non-speech sounds initiated no significant connections to premotor cortex. Since the highest level of motor activity was observed only when processing identifiable sounds with incomplete phonological information, it is concluded that premotor cortex is not generally necessary for speech perception but may facilitate interpreting a sound as speech when the acoustic input is sparse.
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