Brain-behavior relationships in incidental learning of non-native phonetic categories
Molfese, Peter J.
Blumstein, Sheila E.
Myers, Emily B.
Sahil Luthra, Pamela Fuhrmeister, Peter J. Molfese, Sara Guediche, Sheila E. Blumstein, Emily B. Myers, Brain-behavior relationships in incidental learning of non-native phonetic categories, Brain and Language, Volume 198, 2019, 104692, ISSN 0093-934X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandl.2019.104692.
Research has implicated the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) in mapping acoustic-phonetic input to sound category representations, both in native speech perception and non-native phonetic category learning. At issue is whether this sensitivity reflects access to phonetic category information per se or to explicit category labels, the latter often being required by experimental procedures. The current study employed an incidental learning paradigm designed to increase sensitivity to a difficult non-native phonetic contrast without inducing explicit awareness of the categorical nature of the stimuli. Functional MRI scans revealed frontal sensitivity to phonetic category structure both before and after learning. Additionally, individuals who succeeded most on the learning task showed the largest increases in frontal recruitment after learning. Overall, results suggest that processing novel phonetic category information entails a reliance on frontal brain regions, even in the absence of explicit category labels.