MEG Reading Group

Journal Club Discussion -- Listen to Yourself: The Medial Prefrontal Cortex Modulates Auditory Alpha Power During Speech Preparation

N. Müller, S. Leske, T. Hartmann, S. Szebényi and N. Weisz | Cereb. Cortex (2014) | doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu117 How do we process stimuli that stem from the external world and stimuli that are self-generated? In the case of voice perception it has been shown that evoked activity elicited by self-generated sounds is suppressed compared with the same sounds played-back externally. We here wanted to reveal whether neural excitability of the auditory cortex—putatively reflected in local alpha band power—is modulated already prior to speech onset, and which brain regions may mediate such a top-down preparatory response. In the left auditory cortex we show that the typical alpha suppression found when participants prepare to listen disappears when participants expect a self-spoken sound. This suggests an inhibitory adjustment of auditory cortical activity already before sound onset. As a second main finding we demonstrate that the medial prefrontal cortex, a region known for self-referential processes, mediates these condition-specific alpha power modulations. This provides crucial insights into how higher-order regions prepare the auditory cortex for the processing of self-generated sounds. Furthermore, the mechanism outlined could provide further explanations to self-referential phenomena, such as “tickling yourself”. Finally, it has implications for the so-far unsolved question of how auditory alpha power is mediated by higher-order regions in a more general sense.