DOI: 10.1101/482562Nov 30, 2018Paper

All in thirty milliseconds: EEG evidence of hierarchical and asymmetric phonological encoding of vowels

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Anna Dora MancaMirko Grimaldi


How the brain encodes the speech acoustic signal into phonological representations (distinctive features) is a fundamental question for the neurobiology of language. Whether this process is characterized by tonotopic maps in primary or secondary auditory areas, with bilateral or leftward activity, remains a long-standing challenge. Magnetoencephalographic and ECoG studies failed to show hierarchical and asymmetric hints for speech processing. We employed high-density electroencephalography to map the Salento Italian vowel system onto cortical sources using the N1 auditory evoked component. We found evidence that the N1 is characterized by hierarchical and asymmetric indexes structuring vowels representation. We identified them with two N1 subcomponents: the typical N1 (N1a) peaking at 125-135 ms and localized in the primary auditory cortex bilaterally with a tangential distribution and a late phase of the N1 (N1b) peaking at 145-155 ms and localized in the left superior temporal gyrus with a radial distribution. Notably, we showed that the processing of distinctive feature representations begins early in the primary auditory cortex and carries on in the superior temporal gyrus along lateral-medial, anterior-posterior and inferi...Continue Reading

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