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Cerebral bases of subliminal speech priming.

While the neural correlates of unconscious perception and subliminal priming have been largely studied for visual stimuli, little is known about their counterparts in the auditory modality. Here we used a subliminal speech priming method in combination with fMRI to investigate which regions of the cerebral network for language can respond in the absence of awareness. Participants performed a lexical decision task on target items preceded by subliminal primes, which were either phonetically identical or different from the target. Moreover, the prime and target could be spoken by the same speaker or by two different speakers. Word repetition reduced the activity in the insula and in the left superior temporal gyrus. Although the priming effect on reaction times was independent of voice manipulation, neural repetition suppression was modulated by speaker change in the superior temporal gyrus while the insula showed voice-independent priming. These results provide neuroimaging evidence of subliminal priming for spoken words and inform us on the first, unconscious stages of speech perception. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)