A Neuro-Experimental Evidence for the Motor Theory of Speech Perception

Bin Zhao, Jianwu Dang, Gaoyan Zhang


The somatotopic activation in the sensorimotor cortex during speech comprehension has been redundantly documented and largely explained by the notion of embodied semantics, which suggests that processing auditory words referring to body movements recruits the same somatotopic regions for that action execution. For this issue, the motor theory of speech perception provided another explanation, suggesting that the perception of speech sounds produced by a specific articulator movement may recruit the motor representation of that articulator in the precentral gyrus. To examine the latter theory, we used a set of Chinese synonyms with different articulatory features, involving lip gestures (LipR) or not (LipN), and recorded the electroencephalographic (EEG) signals while subjects passively listened to them. It was found that at about 200 ms post-onset, the event-related potential of LipR and LipN showed a significant polarity reversal near the precentral lip motor areas. EEG source reconstruction results also showed more obvious somatotopic activation in the lip region for the LipR than the LipN. Our results provide a positive support for the effect of articulatory simulation on speech comprehension and basically agree with the motor theory of speech perception.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1741

Cite as: Zhao, B., Dang, J., Zhang, G. (2017) A Neuro-Experimental Evidence for the Motor Theory of Speech Perception. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 2441-2445, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1741.


@inproceedings{Zhao2017,
  author={Bin Zhao and Jianwu Dang and Gaoyan Zhang},
  title={A Neuro-Experimental Evidence for the Motor Theory of Speech Perception},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={2441--2445},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1741},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1741}
}