A common assumption is that phonetic sounds initiate unique processing in the superior temporal gyri and sulci (STG/STS). The anatomical areas subserving these processes are also implicated in the processing of non-phonetic stimuli such as music instrument sounds. The differential processing of phonetic and non-phonetic sounds was investigated in this study by applying a “sound-morphing” paradigm, where the presence of phonetic features were parametrically varied, creating a step-wise transition from a non-phonetic sound into a phonetic sound. The stimuli were presented in an event-related fMRI design. The fMRI-BOLD data were analysed using parametric contrasts. The results showed a higher sensitivity for sounds containing phonetic features compared to non-phonetic sounds in the middle part of STG, and in the anterior part of the planum temporale (PT) bilaterally. Although the same areas were involved in the processing of non-phonetic sounds, a difference in activation was evident in the STG, with an increase in activation related to increment of phonetic features in the sounds. The results indicate a stimulus-driven, bottom-up process that utilizes general auditory resources in the secondary auditory cortex, depending on specific phonetic features in the sounds.
from Brain and Language