Functional imaging of human auditory cortex

David L Woods, Claude Alain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review summarizes recent advances in functional magnetic resonance imaging that reveal similarities in the organization of human auditory cortex (HAC) and auditory cortex of nonhuman primates. RECENT FINDINGS: Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that HAC is a compact region that covers less than 8% of the total cortical surface. HAC is subdivided into more than a dozen distinct auditory cortical fields (ACFs) that surround Heschl's gyri on the superior temporal plane. Recent advances that permit the visualization of the results of functional magnetic imaging experiments directly on the cortical surface have provided new insights into the organization of human ACFs. Evidence suggests that medial regions of HAC are organized in a manner similar to the auditory cortex of other primate species with a set of tonotopically organized core ACFs surrounded by belt ACFs that often share tonotopic organization with the core. Although influenced by attention, responses in HAC core and belt fields are largely determined by the acoustic properties of stimuli, including their frequency, intensity, and location. In contrast, lateral regions of HAC contain parabelt fields that are little influenced by simple acoustic features but rather respond to behaviorally relevant complex sounds such as speech and are strongly modulated by attention. SUMMARY: HAC conserves the basic structural and functional organization of auditory cortex as seen in old world primate species. A central challenge to future research is to understand how this basic primate plan has evolved to support uniquely human abilities such as music and language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-411
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Attention
  • Auditory cortex
  • Auditory cortical fields
  • Plasticity
  • Tonotopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Surgery


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