Brain Communications. 2024 doi:

Timing and location of speech errors induced by direct cortical stimulation

Heather Kabakoff, Leyao Yu, Patricia Dugan, Daniel Friedman, Werner Doyle, Orrin Devinsky,  Adeen Flinker 
Cortical regions supporting speech production are commonly established using neuroimaging techniques in both research and clinical settings. However, for neurosurgical purposes, structural function is routinely mapped peri-operatively using direct electrocortical stimulation. While this method is the gold standard for identification of eloquent cortical regions to preserve in neurosurgical patients, there is lack of specificity of the actual underlying cognitive processes being interrupted. To address this, we propose mapping the temporal dynamics of speech arrest across peri-sylvian cortices by quantifying the latency between stimulation and speech deficits. In doing so, we are able to substantiate hypotheses about distinct region-specific functional roles (e.g. planning versus motor execution). In this retrospective observational study, we analysed 20 patients (12 female; age range 14–43) with refractory epilepsy who underwent continuous extra-operative intracranial EEG monitoring of an automatic speech task during clinical bedside language mapping. Latency to speech arrest was calculated as time from stimulation onset to speech arrest onset, controlling for individual speech rate. Most instances of motor-based arrest (87.5% of 96 instances) were in sensorimotor cortex with mid-range latencies to speech arrest with a distributional peak at 0.47 s. Speech arrest occurred in numerous regions, with relatively short latencies in supramarginal gyrus (0.46 s), superior temporal gyrus (0.51 s) and middle temporal gyrus (0.54 s), followed by relatively long latencies in sensorimotor cortex (0.72 s) and especially long latencies in inferior frontal gyrus (0.95 s). Non-parametric testing for speech arrest revealed that region predicted latency; latencies in supramarginal gyrus and in superior temporal gyrus were shorter than in sensorimotor cortex and in inferior frontal gyrus. Sensorimotor cortex is primarily responsible for motor-based arrest. Latencies to speech arrest in supramarginal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus (and to a lesser extent middle temporal gyrus) align with latencies to motor-based arrest in sensorimotor cortex. This pattern of relatively quick cessation of speech suggests that stimulating these regions interferes with the outgoing motor execution. In contrast, the latencies to speech arrest in inferior frontal gyrus and in ventral regions of sensorimotor cortex were significantly longer than those in temporoparietal regions. Longer latencies in the more frontal areas (including inferior frontal gyrus and ventral areas of precentral gyrus and postcentral gyrus) suggest that stimulating these areas interrupts a higher-level speech production process involved in planning. These results implicate the ventral specialization of sensorimotor cortex (including both precentral and postcentral gyri) for speech planning above and beyond motor execution.
eLife. 2024 doi: 10.7554/eLife.94198.1

Speech-induced suppression and vocal feedback sensitivity in human cortex

Muge Ozker, Leyao Yu, Patricia Dugan, Daniel Friedman, Werner Doyle, Orrin Devinsky,  Adeen Flinker 
Across the animal kingdom, neural responses in the auditory cortex are suppressed during vocalization, and humans are no exception. A common hypothesis is that suppression increases sensitivity to auditory feedback, enabling the detection of vocalization errors. This hypothesis has been previously confirmed in non-human primates, however a direct link between auditory suppression and sensitivity in human speech monitoring remains elusive. To address this issue, we obtained intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG) recordings from 35 neurosurgical participants during speech production. We first characterized the detailed topography of auditory suppression, which varied across superior temporal gyrus (STG). Next, we performed a delayed auditory feedback (DAF) task to determine whether the suppressed sites were also sensitive to auditory feedback alterations. Indeed, overlapping sites showed enhanced responses to feedback, indicating sensitivity. Importantly, there was a strong correlation between the degree of auditory suppression and feedback sensitivity, suggesting suppression might be a key mechanism that underlies speech monitoring. Further, we found that when participants produced speech with simultaneous auditory feedback, posterior STG was selectively activated if participants were engaged in a DAF paradigm, suggesting that increased attentional load can modulate auditory feedback sensitivity.
Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2023 doi: 10.1073/pnas.2300255120.

Distributed feedforward and feedback cortical processing supports human speech production

Ran Wang, Xupeng Chen, Amirhossein Kahlilian-Gourtani, Leyao Yu, Patricia Dugan, Daniel Friedman, Werner Doyle, Orrin Devinsky, Yao Wang and Adeen Flinker 
Speech production is a complex human function requiring continuous feedforward commands together with reafferent feedback processing. These processes are carried out by distinct frontal and temporal cortical networks, but the degree and timing of their recruitment and dynamics remain poorly understood. We present a deep learning architecture that translates neural signals recorded directly from the cortex to an interpretable representational space that can reconstruct speech. We leverage learned decoding networks to disentangle feedforward vs. feedback processing. Unlike prevailing models, we find a mixed cortical architecture in which frontal and temporal networks each process both feedforward and feedback information in tandem. We elucidate the timing of feedforward and feedback–related processing by quantifying the derived receptive fields. Our approach provides evidence for a surprisingly mixed cortical architecture of speech circuitry together with decoding advances that have important implications for neural prosthetics
Plos Biology Feb 2022,

A cortical network processes auditory error signals during human speech production to maintain fluency

Müge Özker, Werner K Doyle, Orrin Devinsky, Adeen Flinker
Hearing one’s own voice is critical for fluent speech production as it allows for the detection and correction of vocalization errors in real time. This behavior known as the auditory feedback control of speech is impaired in various neurological disorders ranging from stuttering to aphasia; however, the underlying neural mechanisms are still poorly understood. Computational models of speech motor control suggest that, during speech production, the brain uses an efference copy of the motor command to generate an internal estimate of the speech output. When actual feedback differs from this internal estimate, an error signal is generated to correct the internal estimate and update necessary motor commands to produce intended speech. We were able to localize the auditory error signal using electrocorticographic recordings from neurosurgical participants during a delayed auditory feedback (DAF) paradigm. In this task, participants hear their voice with a time delay as they produced words and sentences (similar to an echo on a conference call), which is well known to disrupt fluency by causing slow and stutter-like speech in humans. We observed a significant response enhancement in auditory cortex that scaled with the duration of feedback delay, indicating an auditory speech error signal. Immediately following auditory cortex, dorsal precentral gyrus (dPreCG), a region that has not been implicated in auditory feedback processing before, exhibited a markedly similar response enhancement, suggesting a tight coupling between the 2 regions. Critically, response enhancement in dPreCG occurred only during articulation of long utterances due to a continuous mismatch between produced speech and reafferent feedback. These results suggest that dPreCG plays an essential role in processing auditory error signals during speech production to maintain fluency.
Neurology Aug 2020, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010639; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010639

Neural correlates of sign language production revealed by electrocorticography

Jennifer Shum, Lora Fanda, Patricia Dugan, Werner K Doyle, Orrin Devinsky, Adeen Flinker
Objective: The combined spatiotemporal dynamics underlying sign language production remains largely unknown. To investigate these dynamics as compared to speech production we utilized intracranial electrocorticography during a battery of language tasks.

Methods: We report a unique case of direct cortical surface recordings obtained from a neurosurgical patient with intact hearing and bilingual in English and American Sign Language. We designed a battery of cognitive tasks to capture multiple modalities of language processing and production.
Results: We identified two spatially distinct cortical networks: ventral for speech and dorsal for sign production. Sign production recruited peri-rolandic, parietal and posterior temporal regions, while speech production recruited frontal, peri-sylvian and peri-rolandic regions. Electrical cortical stimulation confirmed this spatial segregation, identifying mouth areas for speech production and limb areas for sign production. The temporal dynamics revealed superior parietal cortex activity immediately before sign production, suggesting its role in planning and producing sign language.

Conclusions: Our findings reveal a distinct network for sign language and detail the temporal propagation supporting sign production.

Spectrotemporal modulation provides a unifying framework for auditory cortical asymmetries

Flinker, Adeen; Doyle, Werner K; Mehta, Ashesh D; Devinsky, Orrin; Poeppel, David
The principles underlying functional asymmetries in cortex remain debated. For example, it is accepted that speech is processed bilaterally in auditory cortex, but a left hemisphere dominance emerges when the input is interpreted linguistically. The mechanisms, however, are contested, such as what sound features or processing principles underlie laterality. Recent findings across species (humans, canines and bats) provide converging evidence that spectrotemporal sound features drive asymmetrical responses. Typically, accounts invoke models wherein the hemispheres differ in time-frequency resolution or integration window size. We develop a framework that builds on and unifies prevailing models, using spectrotemporal modulation space. Using signal processing techniques motivated by neural responses, we test this approach, employing behavioural and neurophysiological measures. We show how psychophysical judgements align with spectrotemporal modulations and then characterize the neural sensitivities to temporal and spectral modulations. We demonstrate differential contributions from both hemispheres, with a left lateralization for temporal modulations and a weaker right lateralization for spectral modulations. We argue that representations in the modulation domain provide a more mechanistic basis to account for lateralization in auditory cortex.

Redefining the role of Broca’s area in speech

Flinker, Adeen; Korzeniewska, Anna; Shestyuk, Avgusta Y; Franaszczuk, Piotr J; Dronkers, Nina F; Knight, Robert T; Crone, Nathan E
For over a century neuroscientists have debated the dynamics by which human cortical language networks allow words to be spoken. Although it is widely accepted that Broca’s area in the left inferior frontal gyrus plays an important role in this process, it was not possible, until recently, to detail the timing of its recruitment relative to other language areas, nor how it interacts with these areas during word production. Using direct cortical surface recordings in neurosurgical patients, we studied the evolution of activity in cortical neuronal populations, as well as the Granger causal interactions between them. We found that, during the cued production of words, a temporal cascade of neural activity proceeds from sensory representations of words in temporal cortex to their corresponding articulatory gestures in motor cortex. Broca’s area mediates this cascade through reciprocal interactions with temporal and frontal motor regions. Contrary to classic notions of the role of Broca’s area in speech, while motor cortex is activated during spoken responses, Broca’s area is surprisingly silent. Moreover, when novel strings of articulatory gestures must be produced in response to nonword stimuli, neural activity is enhanced in Broca’s area, but not in motor cortex. These unique data provide evidence that Broca’s area coordinates the transformation of information across large-scale cortical networks involved in spoken word production. In this role, Broca’s area formulates an appropriate articulatory code to be implemented by motor cortex.

Single-trial speech suppression of auditory cortex activity in humans

Flinker, Adeen; Chang, Edward F; Kirsch, Heidi E; Barbaro, Nicholas M; Crone, Nathan E; Knight, Robert T
The human auditory cortex is engaged in monitoring the speech of interlocutors as well as self-generated speech. During vocalization, auditory cortex activity is reported to be suppressed, an effect often attributed to the influence of an efference copy from motor cortex. Single-unit studies in non-human primates have demonstrated a rich dynamic range of single-trial auditory responses to self-speech consisting of suppressed, nonsuppressed and excited auditory neurons. However, human research using noninvasive methods has only reported suppression of averaged auditory cortex responses to self-generated speech. We addressed this discrepancy by recording electrocorticographic activity from neurosurgical subjects performing auditory repetition tasks. We observed that the degree of suppression varied across different regions of auditory cortex, revealing a variety of suppressed and nonsuppressed responses during vocalization. Importantly, single-trial high-gamma power (gamma(High), 70-150 Hz) robustly tracked individual auditory events and exhibited stable responses across trials for suppressed and nonsuppressed regions.

Sub-centimeter language organization in the human temporal lobe

Flinker, A; Chang, E F; Barbaro, N M; Berger, M S; Knight, R T
The human temporal lobe is well known to be critical for language comprehension. Previous physiological research has focused mainly on non-invasive neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques with each approach requiring averaging across many trials and subjects. The results of these studies have implicated extended anatomical regions in peri-sylvian cortex in speech perception. These non-invasive studies typically report a spatially homogenous functional pattern of activity across several centimeters of cortex. We examined the spatiotemporal dynamics of word processing using electrophysiological signals acquired from high-density electrode arrays (4mm spacing) placed directly on the human temporal lobe. Electrocorticographic (ECoG) activity revealed a rich mosaic of language activity, which was functionally distinct at four mm separation. Cortical sites responding specifically to word and not phoneme stimuli were surrounded by sites that responded to both words and phonemes. Other sub-regions of the temporal lobe responded robustly to self-produced speech and minimally to external stimuli while surrounding sites at 4mm distance exhibited an inverse pattern of activation. These data provide evidence for temporal lobe specificity to words as well as self-produced speech. Furthermore, the results provide evidence that cortical processing in the temporal lobe is not spatially homogenous over centimeters of cortex. Rather, language processing is supported by independent and spatially distinct functional sub-regions of cortex at a resolution of at least 4mm.