An important method for studying how the brain processes familiar stimuli is to present the same item on more than one occasion and measure how responses change with repetition. Here we use repetition priming in a sparse functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study to probe the neuroanatomical basis of spoken word recognition and the representations of spoken words that mediate repetition priming effects. Participants made lexical decisions to words and pseudowords spoken by a male or female voice that were presented twice, with half of the repetitions in a different voice. Behavioral and neural priming was observed for both words and pseudowords and was not affected by voice changes. The fMRI data revealed an elevated response to words compared to pseudowords in both posterior and anterior temporal regions, suggesting that both contribute to word recognition. Both reduced and elevated activation for second presentations (repetition suppression and enhancement) were observed in frontal and posterior regions. Correlations between behavioral priming and neural repetition suppression were observed in frontal regions, suggesting that repetition priming effects for spoken words reflect changes within systems involved in generating behavioral responses. Based on the current results, these processes are sufficiently abstract to display priming despite changes in the physical form of the stimulus and operate equivalently for words and pseudowords.

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