1. Computational and Systems Biology
  2. Neuroscience
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Shared and modality-specific brain regions that mediate auditory and visual word comprehension

  1. Anne Keitel  Is a corresponding author
  2. Joachim Gross
  3. Christoph Kayser
  1. University of Dundee, United Kingdom
  2. University of Muenster, Germany
  3. Bielefeld University, Germany
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2020;9:e56972 doi: 10.7554/eLife.56972


Visual speech carried by lip movements is an integral part of communication. Yet, it remains unclear in how far visual and acoustic speech comprehension are mediated by the same brain regions. Using multivariate classification of full-brain MEG data, we first probed where the brain represents acoustically and visually conveyed word identities. We then tested where these sensory-driven representations are predictive of participants' trial-wise comprehension. The comprehension-relevant representations of auditory and visual speech converged only in anterior angular and inferior frontal regions and were spatially dissociated from those representations that best reflected the sensory-driven word identity. These results provide a neural explanation for the behavioural dissociation of acoustic and visual speech comprehension and suggest that cerebral representations encoding word identities may be more modality-specific than often upheld.

Data availability

All relevant data and stimuli lists have been deposited to Dryad, under the DOI:10.5061/dryad.zkh18937w.

The following data sets were generated
The following previously published data sets were used

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Anne Keitel

    Psychology, University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-4498-0146
  2. Joachim Gross

    Institute for Biomagnetism and Biosignalanalysis, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Christoph Kayser

    Department for Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Biology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-7362-5704


Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/L027534/1)

  • Joachim Gross
  • Christoph Kayser

H2020 European Research Council (ERC-2014-CoG; grant No 646657)

  • Christoph Kayser

Wellcome (Joint Senior Investigator Grant,No 098433)

  • Joachim Gross

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (GR 2024/5-1)

  • Joachim Gross

IZKF (Gro3/001/19)

  • Joachim Gross

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Human subjects: All participants provided written informed consent prior to testing and received monetary compensation of £10/h. The experiment was approved by the ethics committee of the College of Science and Engineering, University of Glasgow (approval number 300140078), and conducted in compliance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Tobias Reichenbach, Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: March 16, 2020
  2. Accepted: August 18, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: August 24, 2020 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: September 3, 2020 (version 2)


© 2020, Keitel et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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