Parametric merging of MEG and fMRI reveals spatiotemporal differences in cortical processing of spoken words and environmental sounds in background noise

Cereb Cortex. 2012 Jan;22(1):132-43. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr095. Epub 2011 May 25.


There is an increasing interest to integrate electrophysiological and hemodynamic measures for characterizing spatial and temporal aspects of cortical processing. However, an informative combination of responses that have markedly different sensitivities to the underlying neural activity is not straightforward, especially in complex cognitive tasks. Here, we used parametric stimulus manipulation in magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) recordings on the same subjects, to study effects of noise on processing of spoken words and environmental sounds. The added noise influenced MEG response strengths in the bilateral supratemporal auditory cortex, at different times for the different stimulus types. Specifically for spoken words, the effect of noise on the electrophysiological response was remarkably nonlinear. Therefore, we used the single-subject MEG responses to construct parametrization for fMRI data analysis and obtained notably higher sensitivity than with conventional stimulus-based parametrization. fMRI results showed that partly different temporal areas were involved in noise-sensitive processing of words and environmental sounds. These results indicate that cortical processing of sounds in background noise is stimulus specific in both timing and location and provide a new functionally meaningful platform for combining information obtained with electrophysiological and hemodynamic measures of brain function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Auditory Cortex / blood supply*
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Environment
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Noise
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sound
  • Vocabulary


  • Oxygen