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  1. Abstract

    A longstanding debate has surrounded the role of the motor system in speech perception, but progress in this area has been limited by tasks that only examine isolated syllables and conflate decision-making with perception. Using an adaptive task that temporally isolates perception from decision-making, we examined an EEG signature of motor activity (sensorimotor μ/beta suppression) during the perception of auditory phonemes, auditory words, audiovisual words, and environmental sounds while holding difficulty constant at two levels (Easy/Hard). Results revealed left-lateralized sensorimotor μ/beta suppression that was related to perception of speech but not environmental sounds. Audiovisual word and phoneme stimuli showed enhanced left sensorimotor μ/beta suppression for correct relative to incorrect trials, while auditory word stimuli showed enhanced suppression for incorrect trials. Our results demonstrate that motor involvement in perception is left-lateralized, is specific to speech stimuli, and it not simply the result of domain-general processes. These results provide evidence for an interactive network for speech perception in which dorsal stream motor areas are dynamically engaged during the perception of speech depending on the characteristics of the speech signal. Crucially, this motor engagement has different effects on the perceptual outcome depending on the lexicality and modality of the speech stimulus.

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