Bihemispheric foundations for human speech comprehension

Edited by Willem J. M. Levelt, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands, and approved August 17, 2010 (received for review January 14, 2010)
September 20, 2010
107 (40) 17439-17444

Abstract

Emerging evidence from neuroimaging and neuropsychology suggests that human speech comprehension engages two types of neurocognitive processes: a distributed bilateral system underpinning general perceptual and cognitive processing, viewed as neurobiologically primary, and a more specialized left hemisphere system supporting key grammatical language functions, likely to be specific to humans. To test these hypotheses directly we covaried increases in the nonlinguistic complexity of spoken words [presence or absence of an embedded stem, e.g., claim (clay)] with variations in their linguistic complexity (presence of inflectional affixes, e.g., play+ed). Nonlinguistic complexity, generated by the on-line competition between the full word and its onset-embedded stem, was found to activate both right and left fronto-temporal brain regions, including bilateral BA45 and -47. Linguistic complexity activated left-lateralized inferior frontal areas only, primarily in BA45. This contrast reflects a differentiation between the functional roles of a bilateral system, which supports the basic mapping from sound to lexical meaning, and a language-specific left-lateralized system that supports core decompositional and combinatorial processes invoked by linguistically complex inputs. These differences can be related to the neurobiological foundations of human language and underline the importance of bihemispheric systems in supporting the dynamic processing and interpretation of spoken inputs.

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Data Availability

Data deposition: The fMRI data have been deposited in XNAT Central, http://central.xnat.org (Project ID: speech).

Acknowledgments

We thank Carolyn McGettigan for her help with stimulus preparation. This research was supported by Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit funding (U.1055.04.002.00001.01) (to W.D.M.-W.), a Medical Research Council program grant (to L.K.T.), and a European Research Council Advanced Grant (to W.D.M.-W.).

Supporting Information

Appendix (PDF)
Supporting Information

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 107 | No. 40
October 5, 2010
PubMed: 20855587

Classifications

Data Availability

Data deposition: The fMRI data have been deposited in XNAT Central, http://central.xnat.org (Project ID: speech).

Submission history

Published online: September 20, 2010
Published in issue: October 5, 2010

Keywords

  1. brain
  2. language
  3. morphology
  4. inflection

Acknowledgments

We thank Carolyn McGettigan for her help with stimulus preparation. This research was supported by Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit funding (U.1055.04.002.00001.01) (to W.D.M.-W.), a Medical Research Council program grant (to L.K.T.), and a European Research Council Advanced Grant (to W.D.M.-W.).

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

Mirjana Bozic
Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge CB2 7EF, United Kingdom;
Lorraine K. Tyler
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, United Kingdom;
David T. Ives
Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EG, United Kingdom; and
Laboratoire de Psychologie de la Perception, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université Paris Descartes, 75005 Paris, France
Billi Randall
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, United Kingdom;
William D. Marslen-Wilson1 [email protected]
Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge CB2 7EF, United Kingdom;

Notes

1
To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: [email protected].
Author contributions: M.B., L.K.T., B.R., and W.D.M.-W. designed research; M.B. performed research; D.T.I. and B.R. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; M.B., L.K.T., and W.D.M.-W. analyzed data; and M.B., L.K.T., and W.D.M.-W. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Bihemispheric foundations for human speech comprehension
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 107
    • No. 40
    • pp. 17061-17451

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