The anatomy of auditory word processing: Individual variability

Martha W. Burton, Douglas C. Noll, Steven L. Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural substrate underlying the processing of single words, comparing activation patterns across subjects and within individuals. In a word repetition task, subjects repeated single words aloud with instructions not to move their jaws. In a control condition involving reverse speech, subjects heard a digitally reversed speech token and said aloud the word "crime." The averaged fMRI results showed activation in the left posterior temporal and inferior frontal regions and in the supplementary motor area, similar to previous PET studies. However, the individual subject data revealed variability in the location of the temporal and frontal activation. Although these results support previous imaging studies, demonstrating an averaged localization of auditory word processing in the posterior superior temporal gyrus (STG), they are more consistent with traditional neuropsychological data, which suggest both a typical posterior STG localization and substantial individual variability. By using careful head restraint and movement analysis and correction methods, the present study further demonstrates the feasibility of using overt articulation in fMRI experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-131
Number of pages13
JournalBrain and language
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Articulation
  • Auditory perception
  • Brain mapping
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI)
  • Language
  • Lexicon
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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