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Neurophysiological origin of human brain asymmetry for speech and language.

  • Benjamin Morillon
  • Lehongre, Katia
  • Frackowiak, Richard S J
  • Ducorps, Antoine
  • Kleinschmidt, Andreas
  • Poeppel, David
  • Giraud, Anne-Lise
Publication Date
Oct 25, 2010
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The physiological basis of human cerebral asymmetry for language remains mysterious. We have used simultaneous physiological and anatomical measurements to investigate the issue. Concentrating on neural oscillatory activity in speech-specific frequency bands and exploring interactions between gestural (motor) and auditory-evoked activity, we find, in the absence of language-related processing, that left auditory, somatosensory, articulatory motor, and inferior parietal cortices show specific, lateralized, speech-related physiological properties. With the addition of ecologically valid audiovisual stimulation, activity in auditory cortex synchronizes with left-dominant input from the motor cortex at frequencies corresponding to syllabic, but not phonemic, speech rhythms. Our results support theories of language lateralization that posit a major role for intrinsic, hardwired perceptuomotor processing in syllabic parsing and are compatible both with the evolutionary view that speech arose from a combination of syllable-sized vocalizations and meaningful hand gestures and with developmental observations suggesting phonemic analysis is a developmentally acquired process.

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