Functional Connectivity in the Left Dorsal Stream Facilitates Simultaneous Language Translation: An EEG Study

Stefan Elmer, Jürg Kühnis
2016
Cortical speech processing is dependent on the mutual interdependence of two distinctive processing streams supporting sound-to-meaning (i.e., ventral stream) and sound-to-articulation (i.e., dorsal stream) mapping. Here, we compared the strengths of intracranial functional connectivity between two main hubs of the dorsal stream, namely the left auditory-related cortex (ARC) and Broca's region, in a sample of simultaneous interpreters (SIs) and multilingual control subjects while the
more » ... hile the participants performed a mixed and unmixed auditory semantic decision task. Under normal listening conditions such kind of tasks are known to initiate a spread of activation along the ventral stream. However, due to extensive and specific training, here we predicted that SIs will more strongly recruit the dorsal pathway in order to pre-activate the speech codes of the corresponding translation. In line with this reasoning, EEG results demonstrate increased left-hemispheric theta phase synchronization in SLI compared to multilingual control participants during early task-related processing stages. In addition, within the SI group functional connectivity strength in the left dorsal pathway was positively related to the cumulative number of training hours across lifespan, and inversely correlated with the age of training commencement. Hence, we propose that the alignment of neuronal oscillations between brain regions involved in "hearing" and "speaking" results from an intertwining of training, sensitive period, and predisposition. Cortical speech processing is dependent on the mutual interdependence of two distinctive processing streams supporting sound-to-meaning (i.e., ventral stream) and sound-to-articulation (i.e., dorsal stream) mapping. Here, we compared the strengths of intracranial functional connectivity between two main hubs of the dorsal stream, namely the left auditory-related cortex (ARC) and Broca's region, in a sample of simultaneous interpreters (SIs) and multilingual control subjects while the participants performed a mixed and unmixed auditory semantic decision task. Under normal listening conditions such kind of tasks are known to initiate a spread of activation along the ventral stream. However, due to extensive and specific training, here we predicted that SIs will more strongly recruit the dorsal pathway in order to pre-activate the speech codes of the corresponding translation. In line with this reasoning, EEG results demonstrate increased left-hemispheric theta phase synchronization in SLI compared to multilingual control participants during early task-related processing stages. In addition, within the SI group functional connectivity strength in the left dorsal pathway was positively related to the cumulative number of training hours across lifespan, and inversely correlated with the age of training commencement. Hence, we propose that the alignment of neuronal oscillations between brain regions involved in "hearing" and "speaking" results from an intertwining of training, sensitive period, and predisposition.
doi:10.5167/uzh-128206 fatcat:pisfeykd2rdt5ouno4mmth7gke