Successful perception of speech in everyday listening conditions requires effective listening strategies to overcome common acoustic distortions, such as background noise. Convergent evidence from neuroimaging and clinical studies identify activation within the temporal lobes as key to successful speech perception. However, current neurobiological models disagree on whether the left temporal lobe is sufficient for successful speech perception or whether bilateral processing is required. We addressed this issue using TMS to selectively disrupt processing in either the left or right superior temporal gyrus (STG) of healthy participants to test whether the left temporal lobe is sufficient or whether both left and right STG are essential. Participants repeated keywords from sentences presented in background noise in a speech reception threshold task while receiving online repetitive TMS separately to the left STG, right STG, or vertex or while receiving no TMS. Results show an equal drop in performance following application of TMS to either left or right STG during the task. A separate group of participants performed a visual discrimination threshold task to control for the confounding side effects of TMS. Results show no effect of TMS on the control task, supporting the notion that the results of Experiment 1 can be attributed to modulation of cortical functioning in STG rather than to side effects associated with online TMS. These results indicate that successful speech perception in everyday listening conditions requires both left and right STG and thus have ramifications for our understanding of the neural organization of spoken language processing.

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