Faculty / Staff Resources Student Resources
University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Neural Basis for the Production and Perception of Prosody

ReHaB Core ⟩ CeNEC Lab ⟩

Principal Investigator: Lisa Aziz-Zadeh PhD

Collaborators: Antonio Damasio; Hanna Damasio

Sep 2009 – Dec 2011

Total funding

Prosody, the melody and intonation of speech, is an extremely important and usually undervalued component of human communication. A significant component of human social interactions depends on prosody. The aim of the present project is to explore the application of recent approaches and concepts in human brain mapping to the study of perception and production of prosody.

The initial goal of the research is to determine the degree to which perception and production of prosody rely on shared neural systems. This will be determined by an fMRI study of regions of overlap in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) during the perception and production of a meaningless phrase in different prosodic intonations. A second goal is to determine individual differences in this shared circuitry for perception and production. Here, we ask: Why are some people better than others at picking up subtle intonations in speech? Are such people more empathetic to the emotions of other people? Are they better at simulating another’s prosodic input onto their own motor representations? To explore these questions, subjects will complete behavioral measures in prosody production, perception, and/or empathy. Scores on these measures will be correlated with brain activity in the region of the IFG previously identified as active in that individual for both prosody perception and production. Elucidating the neural basis of prosody will make an important contribution to the neurobiology of non-verbal communication, and by extension, of social communication. Furthermore, this research will improve the understanding of the communication deficits which result from brain injury, as well as the understanding of core deficits of socially isolating neurological and psychiatric disorders (such as stroke, traumatic head injury, autism).


Type Source Number Amount Period
Federal NIH / National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) 5R03HD057594-02 $80,190 Jul 2010 – Dec 2011
Federal NIH / NICHD 1R03HD057594-01A2 $81,500 Sep 2009 – Jun 2010