Activation of the left planum temporale in pitch processing is shaped by language experience

Yisheng Xu, Jackson Gandour, Thomas Talavage, Donald Wong, Mario Dzemidzic, Yunxia Tong, Xiaojian Li, Mark Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Scopus citations


Implicit, abstract knowledge acquired through language experience can alter cortical processing of complex auditory signals. To isolate prelexical processing of linguistic tones (i.e., pitch variations that convey part of word meaning), a novel design was used in which hybrid stimuli were created by superimposing Thai tones onto Chinese syllables (tonal chimeras) and Chinese tones onto the same syllables (Chinese words). Native speakers of tone languages (Chinese, Thai) underwent fMRI scans as they judged tones from both stimulus sets. In a comparison of native vs. non-native tones, overlapping activity was identified in the left planum temporale (PT). In this area a double dissociation between language experience and neural representation of pitch occurred such that stronger activity was elicited in response to native as compared to non-native tones. This finding suggests that cortical processing of pitch information can be shaped by language experience and, moreover, that lateralized PT activation can be driven by top-down cognitive processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-183
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006


  • Auditory
  • Experience-dependent plasticity
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Mandarin
  • Planum temporale
  • Prosody
  • Thai
  • Tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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