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T'ain't what you say, it's the way that you say it—Left insula and inferior frontal cortex work in interaction with superior temporal regions to control the performance of vocal impersonations

McGettigan, C., Eisner, F., Agnew, Z. K., Manly, T., Wisbey, D., & Scott, S. K. (2013). T'ain't what you say, it's the way that you say it—Left insula and inferior frontal cortex work in interaction with superior temporal regions to control the performance of vocal impersonations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25(11), 1875-1886. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00427.
Historically, the study of human identity perception has focused on faces, but the voice is also central to our expressions and experiences of identity [Belin, P., Fecteau, S., & Bedard, C. Thinking the voice: Neural correlates of voice perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 129–135, 2004]. Our voices are highly flexible and dynamic; talkers speak differently, depending on their health, emotional state, and the social setting, as well as extrinsic factors such as background noise. However, to date, there have been no studies of the neural correlates of identity modulation in speech production. In the current fMRI experiment, we measured the neural activity supporting controlled voice change in adult participants performing spoken impressions. We reveal that deliberate modulation of vocal identity recruits the left anterior insula and inferior frontal gyrus, supporting the planning of novel articulations. Bilateral sites in posterior superior temporal/inferior parietal cortex and a region in right middle/anterior STS showed greater responses during the emulation of specific vocal identities than for impressions of generic accents. Using functional connectivity analyses, we describe roles for these three sites in their interactions with the brain regions supporting speech planning and production. Our findings mark a significant step toward understanding the neural control of vocal identity, with wider implications for the cognitive control of voluntary motor acts.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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