Superior temporal sulcus--It's my area: or is it?

J Cogn Neurosci. 2008 Dec;20(12):2125-36. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20148.


The superior temporal sulcus (STS) is the chameleon of the human brain. Several research areas claim the STS as the host brain region for their particular behavior of interest. Some see it as one of the core structures for theory of mind. For others, it is the main region for audiovisual integration. It plays an important role in biological motion perception, but is also claimed to be essential for speech processing and processing of faces. We review the foci of activations in the STS from multiple functional magnetic resonance imaging studies, focusing on theory of mind, audiovisual integration, motion processing, speech processing, and face processing. The results indicate a differentiation of the STS region in an anterior portion, mainly involved in speech processing, and a posterior portion recruited by cognitive demands of all these different research areas. The latter finding argues against a strict functional subdivision of the STS. In line with anatomical evidence from tracer studies, we propose that the function of the STS varies depending on the nature of network coactivations with different regions in the frontal cortex and medial-temporal lobe. This view is more in keeping with the notion that the same brain region can support different cognitive operations depending on task-dependent network connections, emphasizing the role of network connectivity analysis in neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Facial Expression
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*