Michael Inspector1, David Manor2, Tammar Kushnir2, Yael Gogol1, Noam Amir3, Avi Karni1,2
1Laboratory of Brain Imaging and learning, Haifa University, Haifa, Israel; 2Dept. of Diagnostic Imaging, MRI Unit, The Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel; 3Communications Disorders, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Are brain areas attuned to a change in the location of the prosodic focus (i.e., intonation)? Participants listened to repeated sentences with a fixed intonation. In a subsequent fMRI-test phase, reaction times were slower and neuronal activity was enhanced for sentences presented with the trained wording but with new intonations, compared to unchanged intonations. This enhancement was found in bilateral anterior temporal cortex, left inferior frontal gyrus and right posterior middle temporal gyrus. The results suggest that these areas are selectively tuned to the prosodic structure of sentences, including the processing of slow pitch variations that mark the prosodic focus.