Cross-language differences in the brain network subserving intelligible speech

Jianqiao Ge, Gang Peng, Bingjiang Lyu, Yi Wang, Yan Zhuo, Zhendong Niu, Li Hai Tan, Alexander P. Leff, Jia Hong Gao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

How is language processed in the brain by native speakers of different languages? Is there one brain system for all languages or are different languages subserved by different brain systems? The first view emphasizes commonality, whereas the second emphasizes specificity. We investigated the cortical dynamics involved in processing two very diverse languages: a tonal language (Chinese) and a nontonal language (English). We used functional MRI and dynamic causal modeling analysis to compute and compare brain network models exhaustively with all possible connections among nodes of language regions in temporal and frontal cortex and found that the information flow from the posterior to anterior portions of the temporal cortex was commonly shared by Chinese and English speakers during speech comprehension, whereas the inferior frontal gyrus received neural signals from the left posterior portion of the temporal cortex in English speakers and from the bilateral anterior portion of the temporal cortex in Chinese speakers. Our results revealed that, although speech processing is largely carried out in the common left hemisphere classical language areas (Broca's and Wernicke's areas) and anterior temporal cortex, speech comprehension across different language groups depends on how these brain regions interact with each other. Moreover, the right anterior temporal cortex, which is crucial for tone processing, is equally important as its left homolog, the left anterior temporal cortex, in modulating the cortical dynamics in tone language comprehension. The current study pinpoints the importance of the bilateral anterior temporal cortex in language comprehension that is downplayed or even ignored by popular contemporary models of speech comprehension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2972-2977
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume112
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cortical dynamics
  • Functional MRI
  • Speech perception
  • Tonal language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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