Auditory-Articulatory Neural Alignment between Listener and Speaker during Verbal Communication.Cereb Cortex 2019CC
Whether auditory processing of speech relies on reference to the articulatory motor information of speaker remains elusive. Here, we addressed this issue under a two-brain framework. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was applied to record the brain activities of speakers when telling real-life stories and later of listeners when listening to the audio recordings of these stories. Based on between-brain seed-to-voxel correlation analyses, we revealed that neural dynamics in listeners' auditory temporal cortex are temporally coupled with the dynamics in the speaker's larynx/phonation area. Moreover, the coupling response in listener's left auditory temporal cortex follows the hierarchical organization for speech processing, with response lags in A1+, STG/STS, and MTG increasing linearly. Further, listeners showing greater coupling responses understand the speech better. When comprehension fails, such interbrain auditory-articulation coupling vanishes substantially. These findings suggest that a listener's auditory system and a speaker's articulatory system are inherently aligned during naturalistic verbal interaction, and such alignment is associated with high-level information transfer from the speaker to the listener. Our study provides reliable evidence supporting that references to the articulatory motor information of speaker facilitate speech comprehension under a naturalistic scene.