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Distinct functional levels of human voice processing in the auditory cortex

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Staib Matthias, Frühholz Sascha,
Project Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Auditory Perception - Challenging The Human Auditory System at The Limits of Hearing
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Cerebral Cortex
Page(s) 1
Title of proceedings Cerebral Cortex
DOI 10.1093/cercor/bhac128

Open Access


AbstractVoice signaling is integral to human communication, and a cortical voice area seemed to support the discrimination of voices from other auditory objects. This large cortical voice area in the auditory cortex (AC) was suggested to process voices selectively, but its functional differentiation remained elusive. We used neuroimaging while humans processed voices and nonvoice sounds, and artificial sounds that mimicked certain voice sound features. First and surprisingly, specific auditory cortical voice processing beyond basic acoustic sound analyses is only supported by a very small portion of the originally described voice area in higher-order AC located centrally in superior Te3. Second, besides this core voice processing area, large parts of the remaining voice area in low- and higher-order AC only accessorily process voices and might primarily pick up nonspecific psychoacoustic differences between voices and nonvoices. Third, a specific subfield of low-order AC seems to specifically decode acoustic sound features that are relevant but not exclusive for voice detection. Taken together, the previously defined voice area might have been overestimated since cortical support for human voice processing seems rather restricted. Cortical voice processing also seems to be functionally more diverse and embedded in broader functional principles of the human auditory system.