Herrmann, B., Maess, B., Hahne, A., Schröger, E., & Friederici, A. D. (2011). Syntactic and auditory spatial processing in the human temporal cortex: an MEG study. Neuroimage, 57(2), 624-633.

Syntactic and auditory spatial processing in the human temporal cortex: an MEG study

Processing syntax is believed to be a higher cognitive function involving cortical regions outside sensory cortices. In particular, previous studies revealed that early syntactic processes at around 100-200 ms affect brain activations in anterior regions of the superior temporal gyrus (STG), while independent studies showed that pure auditory perceptual processing is related to sensory cortex activations. However, syntax-related modulations of sensory cortices were reported recently, thereby adding diverging findings to the previous studies. The goal of the present magnetoencephalography study was to localize the cortical regions underlying early syntactic processes and those underlying perceptual processes using a within-subject design. Sentences varying the factors syntax (correct vs. incorrect) and auditory space (standard vs. change of interaural time difference (ITD)) were auditorily presented. Both syntactic and auditory spatial anomalies led to very early activations (40-90 ms) in the STG. Around 135 ms after violation onset, differential effects were observed for syntax and auditory space, with syntactically incorrect sentences leading to activations in the anterior STG, whereas ITD changes elicited activations more posterior in the STG. Furthermore, our observations strongly indicate that the anterior and the posterior STG are activated simultaneously when a double violation is encountered. Thus, the present findings provide evidence of a dissociation of speech-related processes in the anterior STG and the processing of auditory spatial information in the posterior STG, compatible with the view of different processing streams in the temporal cortex.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Biosciences, Pharmacy and Psychology
Institute of Psychology
Neumarkt 9-19
D-04109 Leipzig


Dagmar Schrödl
Phone: +49 341 97-39570
Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

Dorit Thieme
Phone: +49 341 97-39540
Email: d dot thieme at uni-leipzig dot de

Fax: +49 341 97-39271