Numerous studies have revealed the essential role of the left lateral temporal cortex in auditory sentence comprehension along with evidence of the functional specialization of the anterior and posterior temporal sub-areas. However, it is unclear whether task demands (e.g., active vs. passive listening) modulate the functional specificity of these sub-areas. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we addressed this issue by applying both independent component analysis (ICA) and general linear model (GLM) methods. Consistent with previous studies, intelligible sentences elicited greater activity in the left lateral temporal cortex relative to unintelligible sentences. Moreover, responses to intelligibility in the sub-regions were differentially modulated by task demands. While the overall activation patterns of the anterior and posterior superior temporal sulcus and middle temporal gyrus (STS/MTG) were equivalent during both passive and active tasks, a middle portion of the STS/MTG was found to be selectively activated only during the active task under a refined analysis of sub-regional contributions. Our results not only confirm the critical role of the left lateral temporal cortex in auditory sentence comprehension but further demonstrate that task demands modulate functional specialization of the anterior-middle-posterior temporal sub-areas.
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