Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

The coupling between auditory and motor cortices is rate-restricted: Evidence for an intrinsic speech-motor rhythm

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Science Advances  07 Feb 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 2, eaao3842
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3842

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The relation between perception and action remains a fundamental question for neuroscience. In the context of speech, existing data suggest an interaction between auditory and speech-motor cortices, but the underlying mechanisms remain incompletely characterized. We fill a basic gap in our understanding of the sensorimotor processing of speech by examining the synchronization between auditory and speech-motor regions over different speech rates, a fundamental parameter delimiting successful perception. First, using magnetoencephalography, we measure synchronization between auditory and speech-motor regions while participants listen to syllables at various rates. We show, surprisingly, that auditory-motor synchrony is significant only over a restricted range and is enhanced at ~4.5 Hz, a value compatible with the mean syllable rate across languages. Second, neural modeling reveals that this modulated coupling plausibly emerges as a consequence of the underlying neural architecture. The findings suggest that the temporal patterns of speech emerge as a consequence of the intrinsic rhythms of cortical areas.

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