Past neuroimaging studies have documented discrete regions of human temporal cortex that are more strongly activated by conspecific voice sounds than by nonvoice sounds. However, the mechanisms underlying this voice sensitivity remain unclear. In the present functional MRI study, we took a novel approach to examining voice sensitivity, in which we applied a signal detection paradigm to the assessment of multivariate pattern classification among several living and nonliving categories of auditory stimuli. Within this framework, voice sensitivity can be interpreted as a distinct neural representation of brain activity that correctly distinguishes human vocalizations from other auditory object categories. Across a series of auditory categorization tests, we found that bilateral superior and middle temporal cortex consistently exhibited robust sensitivity to human vocal sounds. Although the strongest categorization was in distinguishing human voice from other categories, subsets of these regions were also able to distinguish reliably between nonhuman categories, suggesting a general role in auditory object categorization. Our findings complement the current evidence of cortical sensitivity to human vocal sounds by revealing that the greatest sensitivity during categorization tasks is devoted to distinguishing voice from nonvoice categories within human temporal cortex.
- Category specific
- Multivariate pattern-based analysis
- Temporal voice area