Sound representation in higher language areas during language generation

Lorenzo Magrassi, Giuseppe Aromataris, Alessandro Cabrini, Valerio Annovazzi-Lodi, Andrea Moro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


How language is encoded by neural activity in the higher-level language areas of humans is still largely unknown. We investigated whether the electrophysiological activity of Broca's area correlates with the sound of the utterances produced. During speech perception, the electric cortical activity of the auditory areas correlates with the sound envelope of the utterances. In our experiment, we compared the electrocorticogram recorded during awake neurosurgical operations in Broca's area and in the dominant temporal lobe with the sound envelope of single words versus sentences read aloud or mentally by the patients. Our results indicate that the electrocorticogram correlates with the sound envelope of the utterances, starting before any sound is produced and even in the absence of speech, when the patient is reading mentally. No correlations were found when the electrocorticogram was recorded in the superior parietal gyrus, an area not directly involved in language generation, or in Broca's area when the participants were executing a repetitive motor task, which did not include any linguistic content, with their dominant hand. The distribution of suprathreshold correlations across frequencies of cortical activities varied whether the sound envelope derived from words or sentences. Our results suggest the activity of language areas is organized by sound when language is generated before any utterance is produced or heard.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1868-1873
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Feb 10 2015


  • Broca's area
  • Language
  • Morphosyntax
  • Sound envelope
  • Temporal lobe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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