Vocal expressions of emotions consistently activate regions in the superior temporal cortex (STC), including regions in the primary and secondary auditory cortex (AC). Studies usually report broadly extended functional activations in response to vocal expressions, with considerable variation in peak locations across several auditory subregions. This might suggest different and distributed functional roles across these subregions instead of a uniform role for the decoding of vocal emotions. We reviewed recent studies and conducted an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis summarizing recent fMRI and PET studies dealing with the processing of vocal expressions in the STC and AC. We included two stimulus-specific factors (paraverbal/nonverbal expression, stimulus valence) and one task-specific factor (attentional focus) in the analysis. These factors considerably influenced whether functional activity was located in the AC or STC (influence of valence and attentional focus), the laterality of activations (influence of paraverbal/nonverbal expressions), and the anterior-posterior location of STC activity (influence of valence). These data suggest distributed functional roles and a differentiated network of auditory subregions in response to vocal expressions.
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