The Encoding of Speech Sounds in the Superior Temporal Gyrus

Neuron. 2019 Jun 19;102(6):1096-1110. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.04.023.


The human superior temporal gyrus (STG) is critical for extracting meaningful linguistic features from speech input. Local neural populations are tuned to acoustic-phonetic features of all consonants and vowels and to dynamic cues for intonational pitch. These populations are embedded throughout broader functional zones that are sensitive to amplitude-based temporal cues. Beyond speech features, STG representations are strongly modulated by learned knowledge and perceptual goals. Currently, a major challenge is to understand how these features are integrated across space and time in the brain during natural speech comprehension. We present a theory that temporally recurrent connections within STG generate context-dependent phonological representations, spanning longer temporal sequences relevant for coherent percepts of syllables, words, and phrases.

Keywords: acoustic-phonetic features; auditory cortex; context-dependent representation; electrocorticography; phonological sequence; speech processing; superior temporal gyrus; temporal integration; temporal landmarks; temporally recurrent connections.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Electrocorticography
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Phonetics*
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*