Sub-centimeter language organization in the human temporal lobe

A. Flinker, E. F. Chang, N. M. Barbaro, M. S. Berger, R. T. Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Scopus citations


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 (4. mm 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 4. mm 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 4 mm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-109
Number of pages7
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Auditory processing
  • ECoG
  • Electrocorticography
  • Gamma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing

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  • Cite this

    Flinker, A., Chang, E. F., Barbaro, N. M., Berger, M. S., & Knight, R. T. (2011). Sub-centimeter language organization in the human temporal lobe. Brain and Language, 117(3), 103-109.