Aleman, A., Formisano, E., Koppenhagen, H., Hagoort, P., De Haan, E. H. F., & Kahn, R. S.
(2005). The functional neuroanatomy of metrical stress evaluation of perceived and imagined spoken words. Cerebral Cortex, 15(2), 221-228. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhh124.
We hypothesized that areas in the temporal lobe that have been implicated in the phonological processing of spoken words would also be activated during the generation and phonological processing of imagined speech. We tested this hypothesis using functional magnetic resonance imaging during a behaviorally controlled task of metrical stress evaluation. Subjects were presented with bisyllabic words and had to determine the alternation of strong and weak syllables. Thus, they were required to discriminate between weak-initial words and strong-initial words. In one condition, the stimuli were presented auditorily to the subjects (by headphones). In the other condition the stimuli were presented visually on a screen and subjects were asked to imagine hearing the word. Results showed activation of the supplementary motor area, inferior frontal gyrus (Broca's area) and insula in both conditions. In the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and in the superior temporal sulcus (STS) strong activation was observed during the auditory (perceptual) condition. However, a region located in the posterior part of the STS/STG also responded during the imagery condition. No activation of this same region of the STS was observed during a control condition which also involved processing of visually presented words, but which required a semantic decision from the subject. We suggest that processing of metrical stress, with or without auditory input, relies in part on cortical interface systems located in the posterior part of STS/STG. These results corroborate behavioral evidence regarding phonological loop involvement in auditory–verbal imagery.