Abstract

The neural interface between sensory perception and memory is a central issue in neuroscience, particularly initial memory organization following perceptual analyses. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify anatomic regions extracting initial auditory semantic memory information related to environmental sounds. Two distinct anatomic foci were detected in the right superior temporal gyrus when subjects identified sounds representing either animals or threatening items. Threatening animal stimuli elicited signal changes in both foci, suggesting a distributed neural representation. Our results demonstrate both category- and feature-specific responses to nonverbal sounds in early stages of extracting semantic memory information from these sounds. This organization allows for these category-feature detection nodes to extract early, semantic memory information for efficient processing of transient sound stimuli. Neural regions selective for threatening sounds are similar to those of nonhuman primates, demonstrating semantic memory organization for basic biological/survival primitives are present across species.

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