Relating structure to function: Heschl's gyrus and acoustic processing

Catherine Warrier*, Patrick Wong, Virginia Penhune, Robert Zatorre, Todd Parrish, Daniel Abrams, Nina Kraus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


The way in which normal variations in human neuroanatomy relate to brain function remains largely uninvestigated. This study addresses the question by relating anatomical measurements of Heschl's gyrus (HG), the structure containing human primary auditory cortex, to how this region processes temporal and spectral acoustic information. In this study, subjects' right and left HG were identified and manually indicated on anatomical magnetic resonance imaging scans. Volumes of gray matter, white matter, and total gyrus were recorded, and asymmetry indices were calculated. Additionally, cortical auditory activity in response to noise stimuli varying orthogonally in temporal and spectral dimensions was assessed and related to the volumetric measurements. A high degree of anatomical variability was seen, consistent with other reports in the literature. The auditory cortical responses showed the expected leftward lateralization to varying rates of stimulus change and rightward lateralization of increasing spectral information. An explicit link between auditory structure and function is then established, in which anatomical variability of auditory cortex is shown to relate to individual differences in the way that cortex processes acoustic information. Specifically, larger volumes of left HG were associated with larger extents of rate-related cortex on the left, and larger volumes of right HG related to larger extents of spectral-related cortex on the right. This finding is discussed in relation to known microanatomical asymmetries of HG, including increased myelination of its fibers, and implications for language learning are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-69
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 7 2009


  • Acoustic rate
  • Asymmetry
  • Auditory
  • Auditory cortex
  • Individual variability
  • Lateralization
  • Morphometry
  • Spectral
  • Structure
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Relating structure to function: Heschl's gyrus and acoustic processing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this