Journal Article

From Phonemes to Articulatory Codes: An fMRI Study of the Role of Broca's Area in Speech Production

Marina Papoutsi, Jacco A. de Zwart, J. Martijn Jansma, Martin J. Pickering, James A. Bednar and Barry Horwitz

in Cerebral Cortex

Volume 19, issue 9, pages 2156-2165
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 1047-3211
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1460-2199 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhn239
From Phonemes to Articulatory Codes: An fMRI Study of the Role of Broca's Area in Speech Production

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We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the neuroanatomical substrates of phonetic encoding and the generation of articulatory codes from phonological representations. Our focus was on the role of the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and in particular whether the LIFG plays a role in sublexical phonological processing such as syllabification or whether it is directly involved in phonetic encoding and the generation of articulatory codes. To answer this question, we contrasted the brain activation patterns elicited by pseudowords with high– or low–sublexical frequency components, which we expected would reveal areas related to the generation of articulatory codes but not areas related to phonological encoding. We found significant activation of a premotor network consisting of the dorsal precentral gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally, and the supplementary motor area for low– versus high–sublexical frequency pseudowords. Based on our hypothesis, we concluded that these areas and in particular the LIFG are involved in phonetic and not phonological encoding. We further discuss our findings with respect to the mechanisms of phonetic encoding and provide evidence in support of a functional segregation of the posterior part of Broca's area, the pars opercularis.

Keywords: articulation; fMRI; left inferior frontal gyrus; pars opercularis; phonological processing

Journal Article.  8931 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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