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Functional organization of human sensorimotor cortex for speech articulation

Nature volume 495, pages 327332 (21 March 2013) | Download Citation

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  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 01 May 2013

Abstract

Speaking is one of the most complex actions that we perform, but nearly all of us learn to do it effortlessly. Production of fluent speech requires the precise, coordinated movement of multiple articulators (for example, the lips, jaw, tongue and larynx) over rapid time scales. Here we used high-resolution, multi-electrode cortical recordings during the production of consonant-vowel syllables to determine the organization of speech sensorimotor cortex in humans. We found speech-articulator representations that are arranged somatotopically on ventral pre- and post-central gyri, and that partially overlap at individual electrodes. These representations were coordinated temporally as sequences during syllable production. Spatial patterns of cortical activity showed an emergent, population-level representation, which was organized by phonetic features. Over tens of milliseconds, the spatial patterns transitioned between distinct representations for different consonants and vowels. These results reveal the dynamic organization of speech sensorimotor cortex during the generation of multi-articulator movements that underlies our ability to speak.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Ren for technical help with data collection and pre-processing, and M. Babiak for audio transcription. J. Houde, C. Niziolek, S. Lisberger, K. Chaisanguanthum, C. Cheung and I. Garner provided helpful comments on the manuscript. E.F.C. was funded by the US National Institutes of Health grants R00-NS065120, DP2-OD00862 and R01-DC012379, and the Ester A. and Joseph Klingenstein Foundation.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Neurological Surgery and Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, 505 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, California 94143, USA

    • Kristofer E. Bouchard
    • , Nima Mesgarani
    •  & Edward F. Chang
  2. Center for Integrative Neuroscience, 675 Nelson Rising Lane, University of California, San Francisco, California 94158, USA

    • Kristofer E. Bouchard
    • , Nima Mesgarani
    •  & Edward F. Chang
  3. Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley, 1203 Dwinelle Hall, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • Keith Johnson
  4. UCSF Epilepsy Center, University of California, San Francisco, 400 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, California 94143, USA

    • Edward F. Chang

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Contributions

E.F.C. conceived and collected the data for this project. K.E.B. designed and implemented the analysis with assistance from E.F.C. N.M. assisted with preliminary analysis. K.E.B. and E.F.C. wrote the manuscript. K.J. provided phonetic consultation on experimental design and interpretation of results. E.F.C. supervised the project.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Edward F. Chang.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-13, Supplementary Table 1 and Supplementary Methods.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11911

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