Studies in both human and nonhuman primates indicate that motor and premotor cortical regions participate in auditory and visual perception of actions. Previous studies, using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), showed that perceiving visual and auditory speech increased the excitability of the orofacial motor system during speech perception. Such studies, however, cannot tell us which brain regions mediate this effect. In this study, we used the technique of combining positron emission tomography with TMS to identify the brain regions that modulate the excitability of the motor system during speech perception. Our results show that during auditory speech perception, there is increased excitability of motor system underlying speech production and that this increase is significantly correlated with activity in the posterior part of the left inferior frontal gyrus (Broca's area). We propose that this area “primes” the motor system in response to heard speech even when no speech output is required and, as such, operates at the interface of perception and action.

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