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Distinct fMRI responses to laughter, speech, and sounds along the human peri-sylvian cortex

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kai Alter


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In this event-related fMRI study, 12 right-handed volunteers heard human laughter, sentential speech, and nonvocal sounds in which global temporal and harmonic information were varied whilst they were performing a simple auditory target detection. This study aimed to delineate distinct peri-auditory regions which preferentially respond to laughter, speech, and nonvocal sounds. Results show that all three types of stimuli evoked blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses along the left and right peri-sylvian cortex. However, we observed differences in regional strength and lateralization in that (i) hearing human laughter preferentially involves auditory and somatosensory fields primarily in the right hemisphere, (ii) hearing spoken sentences activates left anterior and posterior lateral temporal regions, (iii) hearing nonvocal sounds recruits bilateral areas in the medial portion of Heschl's gyrus and at the medial wall of the posterior Sylvian Fissure (planum parietale and parietal operculum). Generally, the data imply a differential regional sensitivity of peri-sylvian areas to different auditory stimuli with the left hemisphere responding more strongly to speech and with the right hemisphere being more amenable to nonspeech stimuli. Interestingly, passive perception of human laughter activates brain regions which control motor (larynx) functions. This observation may speak to the issue of a dense intertwining of expressive and receptive mechanisms in the auditory domain. Furthermore, the present study provides evidence for a functional role of inferior parietal areas in auditory processing. Finally, a post hoc conjunction analysis meant to reveal the neural substrates of human vocal timbre demonstrates a particular preference of left and right lateral parts of the superior temporal lobes for stimuli which are made up of human voices relative to nonvocal sounds. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Meyer M, Zysset S, Von Cramon D, Alter K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cognitive Brain Research

Year: 2005

Volume: 24

Issue: 2

Pages: 291-306

Print publication date: 01/07/2005

ISSN (print): 0926-6410

ISSN (electronic): 1872-6348

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.02.008

PubMed id: 15993767


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