Mapping Human Laryngeal Motor Cortex during Vocalization
Eichert N., Papp D., Mars RB., Watkins KE.
Abstract The representations of the articulators involved in human speech production are organized somatotopically in primary motor cortex. The neural representation of the larynx, however, remains debated. Both a dorsal and a ventral larynx representation have been previously described. It is unknown, however, whether both representations are located in primary motor cortex. Here, we mapped the motor representations of the human larynx using functional magnetic resonance imaging and characterized the cortical microstructure underlying the activated regions. We isolated brain activity related to laryngeal activity during vocalization while controlling for breathing. We also mapped the articulators (the lips and tongue) and the hand area. We found two separate activations during vocalization—a dorsal and a ventral larynx representation. Structural and quantitative neuroimaging revealed that myelin content and cortical thickness underlying the dorsal, but not the ventral larynx representation, are similar to those of other primary motor representations. This finding confirms that the dorsal larynx representation is located in primary motor cortex and that the ventral one is not. We further speculate that the location of the ventral larynx representation is in premotor cortex, as seen in other primates. It remains unclear, however, whether and how these two representations differentially contribute to laryngeal motor control.