Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Previous studies have demonstrated that the repetition of pseudowords engages a network of premotor areas for articulatory planning and articulation. However, it remains unclear how these premotor areas interact and drive one another during speech production. We used fMRI with dynamic causal modeling to investigate effective connectivity between premotor areas during overt repetition of words and pseudowords presented in both the auditory and visual modalities. Regions involved in phonological aspects of language production were identified as those where regional increases in the BOLD signal were common to repetition in both modalities. We thus obtained three seed regions: the bilateral pre-SMA, left dorsal premotor cortex (PMd), and left ventral premotor cortex that were used to test 63 different models of effective connectivity in the premotor network for pseudoword relative to word repetition. The optimal model was identified with Bayesian model selection and reflected a network with driving input to pre-SMA and an increase in facilitatory drive from pre-SMA to PMd during repetition of pseudowords. The task-specific increase in effective connectivity from pre-SMA to left PMd suggests that the pre-SMA plays a supervisory role in the generation and subsequent sequencing of motor plans. Diffusion tensor imaging-based fiber tracking in another group of healthy volunteers showed that the functional connection between both regions is underpinned by a direct cortico-cortical anatomical connection.