Gamma Activation and Alpha Suppression within Human Auditory Cortex during a Speech Classification Task

Kirill V. Nourski, Mitchell Steinschneider, Ariane E. Rhone, Christopher K. Kovach, Hiroto Kawasaki, Matthew A. Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The dynamics of information flow within the auditory cortical hierarchy associated with speech processing and the emergence of hemispheric specialization remain incompletely understood. To study these questions with high spatiotemporal resolution, intracranial recordings in 29 human neurosurgical patients of both sexes were obtained while subjects performed a semantic classification task. Neural activity was recorded from posteromedial portion of Heschl's gyrus (HGPM) and anterolateral portion of Heschl's gyrus (HGAL), planum temporale (PT), planum polare, insula, and superior temporal gyrus (STG). Responses to monosyllabic words exhibited early gamma power increases and a later suppression of alpha power, envisioned to represent feedforward activity and decreased feedback signaling, respectively. Gamma activation and alpha suppression had distinct magnitude and latency profiles. HGPM and PT had the strongest gamma responses with shortest onset latencies, indicating that they are the earliest auditory cortical processing stages. The origin of attenuated top-down influences in auditory cortex, as indexed by alpha suppression, was in STG and HGAL. Gamma responses and alpha suppression were typically larger to nontarget words than tones. Alpha suppression was uniformly greater to target versus nontarget stimuli. Hemispheric bias for words versus tones and for target versus nontarget words, when present, was left lateralized. Better task performance was associated with increased gamma activity in the left PT and greater alpha suppression in HGPM and HGAL bilaterally. The prominence of alpha suppression during semantic classification and its accessibility for noninvasive electrophysiologic studies suggests that this measure is a promising index of auditory cortical speech processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5034-5046
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 22 2022


  • Heschl's gyrus
  • electrocorticography
  • iEEG
  • insula
  • superior temporal gyrus
  • superior temporal plane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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