Speech entrainment enables patients with Broca's aphasia to produce fluent speech

Julius Fridriksson, H. Isabel Hubbard, Sarah Grace Hudspeth, Audrey L. Holland, Leonardo Bonilha, Davida Fromm, Chris Rorden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


A distinguishing feature of Broca's aphasia is non-fluent halting speech typically involving one to three words per utterance. Yet, despite such profound impairments, some patients can mimic audio-visual speech stimuli enabling them to produce fluent speech in real time. We call this effect 'speech entrainment' and reveal its neural mechanism as well as explore its usefulness as a treatment for speech production in Broca's aphasia. In Experiment 1, 13 patients with Broca's aphasia were tested in three conditions: (i) speech entrainment with audio-visual feedback where they attempted to mimic a speaker whose mouth was seen on an iPod screen; (ii) speech entrainment with audio-only feedback where patients mimicked heard speech; and (iii) spontaneous speech where patients spoke freely about assigned topics. The patients produced a greater variety of words using audio-visual feedback compared with audio-only feedback and spontaneous speech. No difference was found between audio-only feedback and spontaneous speech. In Experiment 2, 10 of the 13 patients included in Experiment 1 and 20 control subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine the neural mechanism that supports speech entrainment. Group results with patients and controls revealed greater bilateral cortical activation for speech produced during speech entrainment compared with spontaneous speech at the junction of the anterior insula and Brodmann area 47, in Brodmann area 37, and unilaterally in the left middle temporal gyrus and the dorsal portion of Broca's area. Probabilistic white matter tracts constructed for these regions in the normal subjects revealed a structural network connected via the corpus callosum and ventral fibres through the extreme capsule. Unilateral areas were connected via the arcuate fasciculus. In Experiment 3, all patients included in Experiment 1 participated in a 6-week treatment phase using speech entrainment to improve speech production. Behavioural and functional magnetic resonance imaging data were collected before and after the treatment phase. Patients were able to produce a greater variety of words with and without speech entrainment at 1 and 6 weeks after training. Treatment-related decrease in cortical activation associated with speech entrainment was found in areas of the left posterior-inferior parietal lobe. We conclude that speech entrainment allows patients with Broca's aphasia to double their speech output compared with spontaneous speech. Neuroimaging results suggest that speech entrainment allows patients to produce fluent speech by providing an external gating mechanism that yokes a ventral language network that encodes conceptual aspects of speech. Preliminary results suggest that training with speech entrainment improves speech production in Broca's aphasia providing a potential therapeutic method for a disorder that has been shown to be particularly resistant to treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3815-3829
Number of pages15
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the NIDCD (DC008355 and DC009571).


  • Broca's aphasia
  • functional MRI
  • speech production
  • tractography
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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