Brain ‘talks over’ boring quotes: Top-down activation of voice-selective areas while listening to monotonous direct speech quotations


In human communication, direct speech (e.g., Mary said, “I’m hungry”) is perceived as more vivid than indirect speech (e.g., Mary said that she was hungry). This vividness distinction has previously been found to underlie silent reading of quotations: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found that direct speech elicited higher brain activity in the temporal voice areas (TVA) of the auditory cortex than indirect speech, consistent with an “inner voice” experience in reading direct speech. Here we show that listening to monotonously spoken direct versus indirect speech quotations also engenders differential TVA activity. This suggests that individuals engage in top-down simulations or imagery of enriched supra-segmental acoustic representations while listening to monotonous direct speech. The findings shed new light on the acoustic nature of the “inner voice” in understanding direct speech.

NeuroImage, 60(3), 1832-1842
Bo Yao
Bo Yao
Cognitive Neuroscientist

Cognitive Neuroscience of Language