Representation of the speech effectors in the human motor cortex: somatotopy or overlap?

Brain Lang. 2010 Apr;113(1):39-44. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2010.01.008. Epub 2010 Feb 19.


Somatotopy within the orofacial region of the human motor cortex has been a central concept in interpreting the results of neuroimaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies of normal and disordered speech. Yet, somatotopy has been challenged by studies showing overlap among the effectors within the homunculus. In order to address this dichotomy, we performed four voxel-based meta-analyses of 54 functional neuroimaging studies of non-speech tasks involving respiration, lip movement, tongue movement, and swallowing, respectively. While the centers of mass of the clusters supported the classic homuncular view of the motor cortex, there was significant variability in the locations of the activation-coordinates among studies, resulting in an overlapping arrangement. This "somatotopy with overlap" might reflect the intrinsic functional interconnectedness of the oral effectors for speech production.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Deglutition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Lip / diagnostic imaging
  • Lip / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Mouth / diagnostic imaging
  • Mouth / physiology*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Respiration
  • Speech*
  • Tongue / physiology