Similar neural networks respond to coherence during comprehension and production of discourse

Matías Morales, Tanvi Patel, Andres Tamm, Martin J. Pickering, Paul Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

When comprehending discourse, listeners engage default mode regions associated with integrative semantic processing to construct a situation model of its content. We investigated how similar networks are engaged when we produce, as well as comprehend, discourse. During fMRI, participants spoke about a series of specific topics and listened to discourse on other topics. We tested how activation was predicted by natural fluctuations in the global coherence of the discourse, i.e., the degree to which utterances conformed to the expected topic. The neural correlates of coherence were similar across speaking and listening, particularly in default mode regions. This network showed greater activation when less coherent speech was heard or produced, reflecting updating of mental representations when discourse did not conform to the expected topic. In contrast, regions that exert control over semantic activation showed task-specific effects, correlating negatively with coherence during listening but not during production. Participants who showed greater activation in left inferior prefrontal cortex also produced more coherent discourse, suggesting a specific role for this region in goal-directed regulation of speech content. Results suggest strong correspondence of discourse representations during speaking and listening. However, they indicate that the semantic control network plays different roles in comprehension and production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 4317–4330
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number19
Early online date21 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jan 2022


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