Discrimination of speech and non-speech sounds following theta-burst stimulation of the motor cortex.
Rogers JC., Möttönen R., Boyles R., Watkins KE.
Perceiving speech engages parts of the motor system involved in speech production. The role of the motor cortex in speech perception has been demonstrated using low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to suppress motor excitability in the lip representation and disrupt discrimination of lip-articulated speech sounds (Möttönen and Watkins, 2009). Another form of rTMS, continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS), can produce longer-lasting disruptive effects following a brief train of stimulation. We investigated the effects of cTBS on motor excitability and discrimination of speech and non-speech sounds. cTBS was applied for 40 s over either the hand or the lip representation of motor cortex. Motor-evoked potentials recorded from the lip and hand muscles in response to single pulses of TMS revealed no measurable change in motor excitability due to cTBS. This failure to replicate previous findings may reflect the unreliability of measurements of motor excitability related to inter-individual variability. We also measured the effects of cTBS on a listener's ability to discriminate: (1) lip-articulated speech sounds from sounds not articulated by the lips ("ba" vs. "da"); (2) two speech sounds not articulated by the lips ("ga" vs. "da"); and (3) non-speech sounds produced by the hands ("claps" vs. "clicks"). Discrimination of lip-articulated speech sounds was impaired between 20 and 35 min after cTBS over the lip motor representation. Specifically, discrimination of across-category ba-da sounds presented with an 800-ms inter-stimulus interval was reduced to chance level performance. This effect was absent for speech sounds that do not require the lips for articulation and non-speech sounds. Stimulation over the hand motor representation did not affect discrimination of speech or non-speech sounds. These findings show that stimulation of the lip motor representation disrupts discrimination of speech sounds in an articulatory feature-specific way.