Electrocorticographic activation within human auditory cortex during dialog-based language and cognitive testing

Kirill V. Nourski, Mitchell Steinschneider, Ariane E. Rhone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Current models of cortical speech and language processing include multiple regions within the temporal lobe of both hemispheres. Human communication, by necessity, involves complex interactions between regions subserving speech and language processing with those involved in more general cognitive functions. To assess these interactions, we utilized an ecologically salient conversation-based approach. This approach mandates that we first clarify activity patterns at the earliest stages of cortical speech processing. Therefore, we examined high gamma (70-150 Hz) responses within the electrocorticogram (ECoG) recorded simultaneously from Heschl’s gyrus (HG) and lateral surface of the superior temporal gyrus (STG). Subjects were neurosurgical patients undergoing evaluation for treatment of medically intractable epilepsy. They performed an expanded version of the Mini-mental state examination (MMSE), which included additional spelling, naming, and memory-based tasks. ECoG was recorded from HG and the STG using multicontact depth and subdural electrode arrays, respectively. Differences in high gamma activity during listening to the interviewer and the subject’s self-generated verbal responses were quantified for each recording site and across sites within HG and STG. The expanded MMSE produced widespread activation in auditory cortex of both hemispheres. No significant difference was found between activity during listening to the interviewer’s questions and the subject’s answers in posteromedial HG (auditory core cortex). A different pattern was observed throughout anterolateral HG and posterior and middle portions of lateral STG (non-core auditory cortical areas), where activity was significantly greater during listening compared to speaking. No systematic task-specific differences in the degree of suppression during speaking relative to listening were found in posterior and middle STG. Individual sites could, however, exhibit task-related variability in the degree of suppression during speaking compared to listening. The current study demonstrates that ECoG recordings can be acquired in time-efficient dialog-based paradigms, permitting examination of language and cognition in an ecologically salient manner. The results obtained from auditory cortex serve as a foundation for future studies addressing patterns of activity beyond auditory cortex that subserve human communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number202
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY2016
StatePublished - May 4 2016


  • Heschl’s gyrus
  • High gamma
  • Mini-mental state examination
  • Speech
  • Superior temporal gyrus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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