Auditory-motor processing of speech sounds.
Möttönen R., Dutton R., Watkins KE.
The motor regions that control movements of the articulators activate during listening to speech and contribute to performance in demanding speech recognition and discrimination tasks. Whether the articulatory motor cortex modulates auditory processing of speech sounds is unknown. Here, we aimed to determine whether the articulatory motor cortex affects the auditory mechanisms underlying discrimination of speech sounds in the absence of demanding speech tasks. Using electroencephalography, we recorded responses to changes in sound sequences, while participants watched a silent video. We also disrupted the lip or the hand representation in left motor cortex using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Disruption of the lip representation suppressed responses to changes in speech sounds, but not piano tones. In contrast, disruption of the hand representation had no effect on responses to changes in speech sounds. These findings show that disruptions within, but not outside, the articulatory motor cortex impair automatic auditory discrimination of speech sounds. The findings provide evidence for the importance of auditory-motor processes in efficient neural analysis of speech sounds.