Processing of an Audiobook in the Human Brain Is Shaped by Cultural Family Background

Maria Hakonen*, Arsi Ikäheimonen, Annika Hultèn, Janne Kauttonen, Miika Koskinen, Fa Hsuan Lin, Anastasia Lowe, Mikko Sams, Iiro P. Jääskeläinen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Perception of the same narrative can vary between individuals depending on a listener’s previous experiences. We studied whether and how cultural family background may shape the processing of an audiobook in the human brain. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), 48 healthy volunteers from two different cultural family backgrounds listened to an audiobook depicting the intercultural social life of young adults with the respective cultural backgrounds. Shared cultural family background increased inter-subject correlation of hemodynamic activity in the left-hemispheric Heschl’s gyrus, insula, superior temporal gyrus, lingual gyrus and middle temporal gyrus, in the right-hemispheric lateral occipital and posterior cingulate cortices as well as in the bilateral middle temporal gyrus, middle occipital gyrus and precuneus. Thus, cultural family background is reflected in multiple areas of speech processing in the brain and may also modulate visual imagery. After neuroimaging, the participants listened to the narrative again and, after each passage, produced a list of words that had been on their minds when they heard the audiobook during neuroimaging. Cultural family background was reflected as semantic differences in these word lists as quantified by a word2vec-generated semantic model. Our findings may depict enhanced mutual understanding between persons who share similar cultural family backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number649
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • auditory
  • cultural background
  • fMRI
  • inter-subject correlation
  • narrative


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