Abstract

Processing the vocalizations of conspecifics is critical for adaptive social interaction. A species-specific voice-selective region has been identified in the right STS that responds more strongly to human vocal sounds compared with a variety of nonvocal sounds. However, the STS also activates in response to a wide range of signals used in communication, such as eye gaze, biological motion, and speech. These findings raise the possibility that the voice-selective region of the STS may be especially sensitive to vocal sounds that are communicative, rather than to all human vocal sounds. Using fMRI, we demonstrate that the voice-selective region of the STS responds more strongly to communicative vocal sounds (such as speech and laughter) compared with noncommunicative vocal sounds (such as coughing and sneezing). The implications of these results for understanding the role of the STS in voice processing and in disorders of social communication, such as autism spectrum disorder, are discussed.

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