Bilateral capacity for speech sound processing in auditory comprehension: Evidence from Wada procedures

G. Hickok, K. Okada, W. Barr, J. Pa, C. Rogalsky, K. Donnelly, L. Barde, A. Grant

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Abstract

Data from lesion studies suggest that the ability to perceive speech sounds, as measured by auditory comprehension tasks, is supported by temporal lobe systems in both the left and right hemisphere. For example, patients with left temporal lobe damage and auditory comprehension deficits (i.e., Wernicke's aphasics), nonetheless comprehend isolated words better than one would expect if their speech perception system had been largely destroyed (70-80% accuracy). Further, when comprehension fails in such patients their errors are more often semantically-based, than-phonemically based. The question addressed by the present study is whether this ability of the right hemisphere to process speech sounds is a result of plastic reorganization following chronic left hemisphere damage, or whether the ability exists in undamaged language systems. We sought to test these possibilities by studying auditory comprehension in acute left versus right hemisphere deactivation during Wada procedures. A series of 20 patients undergoing clinically indicated Wada procedures were asked to listen to an auditorily presented stimulus word, and then point to its matching picture on a card that contained the target picture, a semantic foil, a phonemic foil, and an unrelated foil. This task was performed under three conditions, baseline, during left carotid injection of sodium amytal, and during right carotid injection of sodium amytal. Overall, left hemisphere injection led to a significantly higher error rate than right hemisphere injection. However, consistent with lesion work, the majority (75%) of these errors were semantic in nature. These findings suggest that auditory comprehension deficits are predominantly semantic in nature, even following acute left hemisphere disruption. This, in turn, supports the hypothesis that the right hemisphere is capable of speech sound processing in the intact brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-184
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Language
Volume107
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

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Keywords

  • Aphasia
  • Auditory comprehension
  • Speech perception
  • Wada

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing

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