Shuai Wang, Samuel Planton, Valérie Chanoine, Julien Sein, Jean-Luc Anton, Bruno Nazarian, Anne-Sophie Dubarry, Christophe Pallier, and Chotiga Pattamadilok.
The left ventral occipito-temporal cortex (left-vOT) plays a key role in reading. Interestingly, the area also responds to speech input, suggesting that it may have other functions beyond written word recognition. Here, we adopt graph theoretical analysis to investigate the left-vOT’s functional role in the whole-brain network while participants process spoken sentences in different contexts. Overall, different connectivity measures indicate that the left-vOT acts as an interface enabling the communication between distributed brain regions and sub-networks. During simple speech perception, the left-vOT is systematically part of the visual network and contributes to the communication between neighbouring areas, remote areas, and sub-networks, by acting as a local bridge, a global bridge, and a connector, respectively. However, when speech comprehension is explicitly required, the specific functional role of the area and the sub-network to which the left-vOT belongs change and vary with the quality of speech signal and task difficulty. These connectivity patterns provide insightful information on the contribution of the left-vOT in various contexts of language processing beyond its role in reading. They advance our general understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying the flexibility of the language network that adjusts itself according to the processing context.