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Joint Representation of Spatial and Phonetic Features in the Human Core Auditory Cortex

Patel, Prachi; Long, Laura Kathleen; Herrero, Jose L.; Mehta, Ashesh D.; Mesgarani, Nima

The human auditory cortex simultaneously processes speech and determines the location of a speaker in space. Neuroimaging studies in humans have implicated core auditory areas in processing the spectrotemporal and the spatial content of sound; however, how these features are represented together is unclear. We recorded directly from human subjects implanted bilaterally with depth electrodes in core auditory areas as they listened to speech from different directions. We found local and joint selectivity to spatial and spectrotemporal speech features, where the spatial and spectrotemporal features are organized independently of each other. This representation enables successful decoding of both spatial and phonetic information. Furthermore, we found that the location of the speaker does not change the spectrotemporal tuning of the electrodes but, rather, modulates their mean response level. Our findings contribute to defining the functional organization of responses in the human auditory cortex, with implications for more accurate neurophysiological models of speech processing.

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