Investigating the Neural Correlates of Voice versus Speech-Sound Directed Information in Pre-School Children
Raschle, Nora Maria
Smith, Sara Ashley
Figuccio, Michael Joseph
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CitationRaschle, Nora Maria, Sara Ashley Smith, Jennifer Zuk, Maria Regina Dauvermann, Michael Joseph Figuccio, and Nadine Gaab. 2014. “Investigating the Neural Correlates of Voice versus Speech-Sound Directed Information in Pre-School Children.” PLoS ONE 9 (12): e115549. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115549. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0115549.
AbstractStudies in sleeping newborns and infants propose that the superior temporal sulcus is involved in speech processing soon after birth. Speech processing also implicitly requires the analysis of the human voice, which conveys both linguistic and extra-linguistic information. However, due to technical and practical challenges when neuroimaging young children, evidence of neural correlates of speech and/or voice processing in toddlers and young children remains scarce. In the current study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 20 typically developing preschool children (average age = 5.8 y; range 5.2–6.8 y) to investigate brain activation during judgments about vocal identity versus the initial speech sound of spoken object words. FMRI results reveal common brain regions responsible for voice-specific and speech-sound specific processing of spoken object words including bilateral primary and secondary language areas of the brain. Contrasting voice-specific with speech-sound specific processing predominantly activates the anterior part of the right-hemispheric superior temporal sulcus. Furthermore, the right STS is functionally correlated with left-hemispheric temporal and right-hemispheric prefrontal regions. This finding underlines the importance of the right superior temporal sulcus as a temporal voice area and indicates that this brain region is specialized, and functions similarly to adults by the age of five. We thus extend previous knowledge of voice-specific regions and their functional connections to the young brain which may further our understanding of the neuronal mechanism of speech-specific processing in children with developmental disorders, such as autism or specific language impairments.
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