Laryngeal motor cortex and control of speech in humans

Neuroscientist. 2011 Apr;17(2):197-208. doi: 10.1177/1073858410386727. Epub 2011 Feb 28.


Speech production is one of the most complex and rapid motor behaviors, and it involves a precise coordination of more than 100 laryngeal, orofacial, and respiratory muscles. Yet we lack a complete understanding of laryngeal motor cortical control during production of speech and other voluntary laryngeal behaviors. In recent years, a number of studies have confirmed the laryngeal motor cortical representation in humans and have provided some information about its interactions with other cortical and subcortical regions that are principally involved in vocal motor control of speech production. In this review, the authors discuss the organization of the peripheral and central laryngeal control based on neuroimaging and electrical stimulation studies in humans and neuroanatomical tracing studies in nonhuman primates. It is hypothesized that the location of the laryngeal motor cortex in the primary motor cortex and its direct connections with the brain stem laryngeal motoneurons in humans, as opposed to its location in the premotor cortex with only indirect connections to the laryngeal motoneurons in nonhuman primates, may represent one of the major evolutionary developments in humans toward the ability to speak and vocalize voluntarily.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Stem / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Larynx / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Voice / physiology