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Keywords:

  • speech;
  • voice;
  • pitch;
  • formant structure;
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI);
  • superior temporal region;
  • right hemisphere

Abstract

The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined the neurophysiological processing of voice information. The impact of the major acoustic parameters as well as the role of the listener's and the speaker's gender were investigated. Male and female, natural, and manipulated voices were presented to 16 young adults who were asked to judge the naturalness of each voice. The hemodynamic responses were acquired by a 3T Bruker scanner utilizing an event-related design. The activation was generally stronger in response to female voices as well as to manipulated voice signals, and there was no interaction with the listener's gender. Most importantly, the results suggest a functional segregation of the right superior temporal cortex for the processing of different voice parameters, whereby (1) voice pitch is processed in regions close and anterior to Heschl's Gyrus, (2) voice spectral information is processed in posterior parts of the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and areas surrounding the planum parietale (PP) bilaterally, and (3) information about prototypicality is predominately processed in anterior parts of the right STG. Generally, by identifying distinct functional regions in the right STG, our study supports the notion of a fundamental role of the right hemisphere in spoken language comprehension. Hum Brain Mapp 24:11–20, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.