No evidence of somatotopic place of articulation feature mapping in motor cortex during passive speech perception


The motor theory of speech perception has experienced a recent revival due to a number of studies implicating the motor system during speech perception. In a key study, Pulvermüller et al. (2006) showed that premotor/motor cortex differentially responds to the passive auditory perception of lip and tongue speech sounds. However, no study has yet attempted to replicate this important finding from nearly a decade ago. The objective of the current study was to replicate the principal finding of Pulvermüller et al. (2006) and generalize it to a larger set of speech tokens while applying a more powerful statistical approach using multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA). Participants performed an articulatory localizer as well as a speech perception task where they passively listened to a set of eight syllables while undergoing fMRI. Both univariate and multivariate analyses failed to find evidence for somatotopic coding in motor or premotor cortex during speech perception. Positive evidence for the null hypothesis was further confirmed by Bayesian analyses. Results consistently show that while the lip and tongue areas of the motor cortex are sensitive to movements of the articulators, they do not appear to preferentially respond to labial and alveolar speech sounds during passive speech perception.

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review