PLoS ONE (Jan 2014)

Functional connectivity between face-movement and speech-intelligibility areas during auditory-only speech perception.

  • Sonja Schall,
  • Katharina von Kriegstein

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9, no. 1
p. e86325


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It has been proposed that internal simulation of the talking face of visually-known speakers facilitates auditory speech recognition. One prediction of this view is that brain areas involved in auditory-only speech comprehension interact with visual face-movement sensitive areas, even under auditory-only listening conditions. Here, we test this hypothesis using connectivity analyses of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. Participants (17 normal participants, 17 developmental prosopagnosics) first learned six speakers via brief voice-face or voice-occupation training (<2 min/speaker). This was followed by an auditory-only speech recognition task and a control task (voice recognition) involving the learned speakers' voices in the MRI scanner. As hypothesized, we found that, during speech recognition, familiarity with the speaker's face increased the functional connectivity between the face-movement sensitive posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS) and an anterior STS region that supports auditory speech intelligibility. There was no difference between normal participants and prosopagnosics. This was expected because previous findings have shown that both groups use the face-movement sensitive STS to optimize auditory-only speech comprehension. Overall, the present findings indicate that learned visual information is integrated into the analysis of auditory-only speech and that this integration results from the interaction of task-relevant face-movement and auditory speech-sensitive areas.