Models of speech perception are in general agreement with respect to the major cortical regions involved, but lack precision with regard to localization and lateralization of processing units. To refine these models we conducted two Activation Likelihood Estimation (ALE) meta-analyses of the neuroimaging literature on sublexical speech perception. Based on foci reported in 23 fMRI experiments, we identified significant activation likelihoods in left and right superior temporal cortex and the left posterior middle frontal gyrus. Sub-analyses examining phonetic and phonological processes revealed only left mid-posterior superior temporal sulcus activation likelihood. A lateralization analysis demonstrated temporal lobe left lateralization in terms of magnitude, extent, and consistency of activity. Experiments requiring explicit attention to phonology drove this lateralization. An ALE analysis of eight fMRI studies on categorical phoneme perception revealed significant activation likelihood in the left supramarginal gyrus and angular gyrus. These results are consistent with a speech processing network in which the bilateral superior temporal cortices perform acoustic analysis of speech and non-speech auditory stimuli, the left mid-posterior superior temporal sulcus performs phonetic and phonological analysis, and the left inferior parietal lobule is involved in detection of differences between phoneme categories. These results modify current speech perception models in three ways: (1) specifying the most likely locations of dorsal stream processing units, (2) clarifying that phonetic and phonological superior temporal sulcus processing is left lateralized and localized to the mid-posterior portion, and (3) suggesting that both the supramarginal gyrus and angular gyrus may be involved in phoneme discrimination.
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