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      Modality-independent recruitment of inferior frontal cortex during speech processing in human infants

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          Abstract

          Despite increasing interest in the development of audiovisual speech perception in infancy, the underlying mechanisms and neural processes are still only poorly understood. In addition to regions in temporal cortex associated with speech processing and multimodal integration, such as superior temporal sulcus, left inferior frontal cortex (IFC) has been suggested to be critically involved in mapping information from different modalities during speech perception. To further illuminate the role of IFC during infant language learning and speech perception, the current study examined the processing of auditory, visual and audiovisual speech in 6-month-old infants using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Our results revealed that infants recruit speech-sensitive regions in frontal cortex including IFC regardless of whether they processed unimodal or multimodal speech. We argue that IFC may play an important role in associating multimodal speech information during the early steps of language learning.

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          Most cited references 71

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          Towards a neural basis of auditory sentence processing.

          Functional dissociations within the neural basis of auditory sentence processing are difficult to specify because phonological, syntactic and semantic information are all involved when sentences are perceived. In this review I argue that sentence processing is supported by a temporo-frontal network. Within this network, temporal regions subserve aspects of identification and frontal regions the building of syntactic and semantic relations. Temporal analyses of brain activation within this network support syntax-first models because they reveal that building of syntactic structure precedes semantic processes and that these interact only during a later stage.
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            Active perception: sensorimotor circuits as a cortical basis for language.

            Action and perception are functionally linked in the brain, but a hotly debated question is whether perception and comprehension of stimuli depend on motor circuits. Brain language mechanisms are ideal for addressing this question. Neuroimaging investigations have found specific motor activations when subjects understand speech sounds, word meanings and sentence structures. Moreover, studies involving transcranial magnetic stimulation and patients with lesions affecting inferior frontal regions of the brain have shown contributions of motor circuits to the comprehension of phonemes, semantic categories and grammar. These data show that language comprehension benefits from frontocentral action systems, indicating that action and perception circuits are interdependent.
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              Functional neuroimaging of speech perception in infants.

              Human infants begin to acquire their native language in the first months of life. To determine which brain regions support language processing at this young age, we measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging the brain activity evoked by normal and reversed speech in awake and sleeping 3-month-old infants. Left-lateralized brain regions similar to those of adults, including the superior temporal and angular gyri, were already active in infants. Additional activation in right prefrontal cortex was seen only in awake infants processing normal speech. Thus, precursors of adult cortical language areas are already active in infants, well before the onset of speech production.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Dev Cogn Neurosci
                Dev Cogn Neurosci
                Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
                Elsevier
                1878-9293
                1878-9307
                30 October 2018
                November 2018
                30 October 2018
                : 34
                : 130-138
                Affiliations
                [a ]Department of Psychology, Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany
                [b ]Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, USA
                [c ]Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author at: Department of Psychology, Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Binger Str. 14-16, 55122, Mainz, Germany. altvater@ 123456uni-mainz.de
                Article
                S1878-9293(17)30163-9
                10.1016/j.dcn.2018.10.002
                6969291
                30391756
                © 2018 The Authors

                This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

                Categories
                Original Research

                Neurosciences

                infant speech perception, fnirs, inferior frontal cortex, modality differences

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