The temporal voice areas (TVAs) in bilateral auditory cortex (AC) appear specialized for voice processing. Previous research assumed a uniform functional profile for the TVAs which are broadly spread along the bilateral AC. Alternatively, the TVAs might comprise separate AC nodes controlling differential neural functions for voice and speech decoding, organized as local micro-circuits. To investigate micro-circuits, we modeled the directional connectivity between TVA nodes during voice processing in humans while acquiring brain activity using neuroimaging. Results show several bilateral AC nodes for general voice decoding (speech and non-speech voices) and for speech decoding in particular. Furthermore, non-hierarchical and differential bilateral AC networks manifest distinct excitatory and inhibitory pathways for voice and speech processing.
Fig: Neural AC activity for voice and speech processing.
Finally, while voice and speech processing seem to have distinctive but integrated neural circuits in the left AC, the right AC reveals disintegrated neural circuits for both sounds. Altogether, we demonstrate a functional heterogeneity in the TVAs for voice decoding based on local micro-circuits.
Steiner, F., Bobin, M. & Frühholz, S. Auditory cortical micro-networks show differential connectivity during voice and speech processing in humans. Commun Biol 4, 801 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02328-2