FMRI study of emotional speech comprehension

Cereb Cortex. 2007 Feb;17(2):339-52. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhj151. Epub 2006 Mar 8.


Little is known about the neural correlates of affective prosody in the context of affective semantic discourse. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate this issue while subjects performed 1) affective classification of sentences having an affective semantic content and 2) grammatical classification of sentences with neutral semantic content. Sentences of each type were produced half by actors and half by a text-to-speech software lacking affective prosody. Compared with neutral sentences processing, sentences with affective semantic content--with or without affective prosody--led to an increase in activation of a left inferior frontal area involved in the retrieval of semantic knowledge. In addition, the posterior part of the left superior temporal sulcus (STS) together with the medial prefrontal cortex were recruited, although not activated by neutral sentences classification. Interestingly, these areas have been described as implicated during self-reflection or other's mental state inference that possibly occurred during the affective classification task. When affective prosody was present, additional rightward activations of the human-selective voice area and the posterior part of STS were observed, corresponding to the processing of speaker's voice emotional content. Accurate affective communication, central to social interactions, requires the cooperation of semantics, affective prosody, and mind-reading neural networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Expressed Emotion / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Speech Perception / physiology*