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Functional organization of human sensorimotor cortex for speech articulation

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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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Figure 1: vSMC physiology during syllable production.
Figure 2: Spatial representation of articulators.
Figure 3: Temporal representation of articulators.
Figure 4: Phonetic organization of spatial patterns.
Figure 5: Dynamics of phonetic representations.

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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.

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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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Edward F. Chang.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Bouchard, K., Mesgarani, N., Johnson, K. et al. Functional organization of human sensorimotor cortex for speech articulation. Nature 495, 327–332 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11911

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