Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The human voice is the primary carrier of speech but also a fingerprint for person identity. Previous neuroimaging studies have revealed that speech and identity recognition is accomplished by partially different neural pathways, despite the perceptual unity of the vocal sound. Importantly, the right STS has been implicated in voice processing, with different contributions of its posterior and anterior parts. However, the time point at which vocal and speech processing diverge is currently unknown. Also, the exact role of the right STS during voice processing is so far unclear because its behavioral relevance has not yet been established. Here, we used the high temporal resolution of magnetoencephalography and a speech task control to pinpoint transient behavioral correlates: we found, at 200 msec after stimulus onset, that activity in right anterior STS predicted behavioral voice recognition performance. At the same time point, the posterior right STS showed increased activity during voice identity recognition in contrast to speech recognition whereas the left mid STS showed the reverse pattern. In contrast to the highly speech-sensitive left STS, the current results highlight the right STS as a key area for voice identity recognition and show that its anatomical-functional division emerges around 200 msec after stimulus onset. We suggest that this time point marks the speech-independent processing of vocal sounds in the posterior STS and their successful mapping to vocal identities in the anterior STS.