Lexicality drives audio-motor transformations in Broca's area

S. A. Kotz, A. D'Ausilio, T. Raettig, C. Begliomini, L. Craighero, M. Fabbri-Destro, C. Zingales, P. Haggard, L. Fadiga

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Broca's area is classically associated with speech production. Recently, Broca's area has also been implicated in speech perception and non-linguistic information processing. With respect to the latter function, Broca's area is considered to be a central area in a network constituting the human mirror system, which maps observed or heard actions onto motor programs to execute analogous actions. These mechanisms share some similarities with Liberman's motor theory, where objects of speech perception correspond to listener's intended articulatory gestures. The aim of the current series of behavioral, TMS and fMRI studies was to test if Broca's area is indeed implicated in such audio-motor transformations. More specifically, using a classical phonological rhyme priming paradigm, we investigated whether the role of Broca's area could be purely phonological or rather, is lexical in nature. In the behavioral baseline study, we found a large priming effect in word prime/target pairs (W-W) and no effect for pseudo-words (PW-PW). Online TMS interference of Broca's area canceled the priming difference between W-W and PW-PW by enhancing the effects for PW-PW. Finally, the fMRI study showed activation of Broca's area for W-W pairs, but not for PW-PW pairs. Our data show that Broca's area plays a significant role in speech perception strongly linked to the lexicality of a stimulus. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-11
    Number of pages8
    JournalBrain and Language
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


    • Broca's area
    • Mirror system
    • Motor theory of speech perception
    • Phonological priming


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