Parsing the phonological loop: Activation timing in the dorsal speech stream determines accuracy in speech reproduction

Alexander B. Herman, John F. Houde, Sophia Vinogradov, Srikantan S. Nagarajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Despite significant research and important clinical correlates, direct neural evidence for a phonological loop linking speech perception, short-term memory and production remains elusive. To investigate these processes, we acquired whole-head magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recordings from human subjects performing a variable-length syllable sequence reproduction task. The MEG sensor data were source localized using a time-frequency optimized spatially adaptive filter, and we examined the time courses of cortical oscillatory power and the correlations of oscillatory power with behavior between onset of the audio stimulus and the overt speech response. We found dissociations between time courses of behaviorally relevant activations in a network of regions falling primarily within the dorsal speech stream. In particular, verbal working memory load modulated high gamma power in both Sylvian-parietal-temporal and Broca's areas. The time courses of the correlations between high gamma power and subject performance clearly alternated between these two regions throughout the task. Our results provide the first evidence of a reverberating input-output buffer system in the dorsal stream underlying speech sensorimotor integration, consistent with recent phonological loop, competitive queuing, and speech-motor control models. These findings also shed new light on potential sources of speech dysfunction in aphasia and neuropsychiatric disorders, identifying anatomically and behaviorally dissociable activation time windows critical for successful speech reproduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5439-5453
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 27 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Parsing the phonological loop: Activation timing in the dorsal speech stream determines accuracy in speech reproduction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this