Functional segregation of the temporal lobes into highly differentiated subsystems for auditory perception: an auditory rapid event-related fMRI-task

Neuroimage. 2003 Dec;20(4):1944-54. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.07.034.


With this study, we explored the blood oxygen level-dependent responses within the temporal lobe to short auditory stimuli of different classes. To address this issue, we performed an attentive listening event-related fMRI study, where subjects were required to concentrate during the presentation of different types of stimuli. Because the order of stimuli was randomized and not predictable for the subject, the observed differences between the stimuli types were interpreted as an automatic effect and were not affected by attention. We used three types of stimuli: tones, sounds of animals and instruments, and words. We found in all cases bilateral activations of the primary and secondary auditory cortex. The strength and lateralization depended on the type of stimulus. The tone trials led to the weakest and smallest activations. The perception of sounds increased the activated network bilaterally into the superior temporal sulcus mainly on the right and the perception of words led to the highest activation within the left superior temporal sulcus as well as in left inferior frontal gyrus. Within the left temporal sulcus, we were able to distinguish between different subsystems, showing an extending activation from posterior to anterior for speech and speechlike information. Whereas posterior parts were involved in analyzing the complex auditory structure of sounds and speech, the middle and anterior parts responded strongest only in the perception of speech. In summary, a functional segregation of the temporal lobes into several subsystems responsible for auditory processing was visible. A lateralization for verbal stimuli to the left and sounds to the right was already detectable when short stimuli were used.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*


  • Oxygen