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Native language, gender, and functional organization of the auditory cortex

By R. Salmelin, A. Schnitzler, L. Parkkonen, K. Biermann, P. Helenius, K. Kiviniemi, K. Kuukka, F. Schmitz and H.-J. Freund

Abstract

Whole-head magnetoencephalography was employed in 40 normal subjects to investigate whether the basic functional organization of the auditory cortex varies with linguistic environment. Robust activations of the bilateral supratemporal auditory cortices to 1-kHz pure tones, maximum at about 100 ms after stimulus onset, were studied in Finnish and German female and male subject groups with monolingual background. Activations elicited by the tones were mutually indistinguishable in German and Finnish women. In contrast, German men showed significantly stronger auditory responses to pure tones in the left, language-dominant hemisphere than Finnish men. We discuss the possibility that the prominent left-hemisphere activation in German males reflects higher frequency resolution required for distinguishing between German than Finnish vowels and that the clear effect of native language in male but not in female auditory cortex derives from more pronounced functional lateralization in men. The present data suggest that the influence of native language can extend to auditory cortical processing of pure-tone stimuli with no linguistic content and that this effect is conspicuous in the male brain

Topics: Biological Sciences
Publisher: The National Academy of Sciences
Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.1073/pnas.96.18.10460
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:17911
Provided by: PubMed Central
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