The Neurotopography of Vowels as Mirrored by Evoked Magnetic Field Measurements
The auditory evoked neuromagnetic field elicited by synthetic specimens of the vowels [a], [ae], [u], and [i] was recorded over the left and the right hemisphere of 11 subjects. The N100m and the SF deflection of the recorded signal was submitted to equivalent current source analysis using the model of a single dipole in a spherical volume conductor. Vowel processing was hypothesized to occur in a multistage process rendering a sequence of representations of the acoustic input. Vowel representations were considered to differ among each other in the features they make salient, thus, in the kind of dissimilarity relationship they establish, and, by implication, in terms of the vowel space defined by the respective set of dissimilarities. It was investigated whether a mapping exists between at least one of a number of hypothetical vowel spaces and the cortical response space spanned by the spatial distribution of vowel evoked equivalent current dipoles. Although the spatial configuration of vowel evoked sources proved to be highly variable across subjects, the ordering of distances between N100m and SF equivalent current dipole locations turned out to correspond to the ordering of distances between the corners of a vowel trapezium. There were some, albeit weak, indications of hemispheric differences in vowel processing. The results suggest that the spatial distribution of the equivalent current dipole sources of both the N100m and the SF deflection of the neuromagnetic field elicited by vowels reflect a processing stage transitional between auditory and phonetic representation.