COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

A cross-linguistic PET study of tone perception in Mandarin Chinese and English speakers

D Klein, R J Zatorre, B Milner, V Zhao
NeuroImage 2001, 13 (4): 646-53
11305893
PET was used in a cross-linguistic study to determine whether neural mechanisms subserving pitch perception differ as a function of linguistic relevance. We compared tone perception in 12 native Mandarin speakers, who use tonal patterns to distinguish lexical meaning, with that of 12 native speakers of a nontone language, English. Subjects were scanned under two conditions: a silent resting baseline and a tonal task involving discrimination of pitch patterns in Mandarin words. Both groups showed common regions of CBF increase, but only Mandarin speakers showed additional activation in frontal, parietal, and parieto-occipital regions of the left hemisphere; this latter finding indicates that language experience may influence brain circuitry in the processing of auditory cues. In contrast, only the English group showed activity in the right inferior frontal cortex, consistent with a right-hemispheric role in pitch perception.

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