Dynamic changes in superior temporal sulcus connectivity during perception of noisy audiovisual speech

J Neurosci. 2011 Feb 2;31(5):1704-14. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4853-10.2011.


Humans are remarkably adept at understanding speech, even when it is contaminated by noise. Multisensory integration may explain some of this ability: combining independent information from the auditory modality (vocalizations) and the visual modality (mouth movements) reduces noise and increases accuracy. Converging evidence suggests that the superior temporal sulcus (STS) is a critical brain area for multisensory integration, but little is known about its role in the perception of noisy speech. Behavioral studies have shown that perceptual judgments are weighted by the reliability of the sensory modality: more reliable modalities are weighted more strongly, even if the reliability changes rapidly. We hypothesized that changes in the functional connectivity of STS with auditory and visual cortex could provide a neural mechanism for perceptual reliability weighting. To test this idea, we performed five blood oxygenation level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging and behavioral experiments in 34 healthy subjects. We found increased functional connectivity between the STS and auditory cortex when the auditory modality was more reliable (less noisy) and increased functional connectivity between the STS and visual cortex when the visual modality was more reliable, even when the reliability changed rapidly during presentation of successive words. This finding matched the results of a behavioral experiment in which the perception of incongruent audiovisual syllables was biased toward the more reliable modality, even with rapidly changing reliability. Changes in STS functional connectivity may be an important neural mechanism underlying the perception of noisy speech.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Noise*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Speech*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Oxygen