Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Medium And The Message: Eyes And Ears Understand Differently, Carnegie Mellon Scientists Report In The Journal Human Brain Mapping

Date:
August 15, 2001
Source:
Carnegie Mellon University
Summary:
A new study by Carnegie Mellon University scientists shows that because of the way the brain works, we understand spoken and written language differently, something that has potential implications in the workplace and in education, among many other areas.

PITTSBURGH - A new study by Carnegie Mellon University scientists shows that because of the way the brain works, we understand spoken and written language differently, something that has potential implications in the workplace and in education, among many other areas.

Related Articles


In the first imaging study that directly compares reading and listening activity in the human brain, Carnegie Mellon scientists discovered that the same information produces systematically different brain activation. And knowing what parts of the brain fire during reading or listening comprehension affects the answer to one of the classic questions about language comprehension: whether the means of delivery through eyes or ears makes a difference. "The brain constructs the message, and it does so differently for reading and listening. The pragmatic implication is that the medium is part of the message. Listening to an audio book leaves a different set of memories than reading does. A newscast heard on the radio is processed differently from the same words read in a newspaper," said Carnegie Mellon Psychology Professor Marcel Just, co-author of the report that appears in this month's issue of the journal Human Brain Mapping.

Just said that the most recent methods of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were applied to measure brain activity during these high-level conceptual processes. Rather than examining the processing of single digits or words, his group is applying brain imaging to societal, workplace, and instructional issues. "We can now see how cell-phone use can affect driving, how reading differs from listening, and how visual thinking is integrated with verbal thinking," Just said.

Using the non-invasive fMRI, scientists were able to measure the amount of activity in each of 20,000 peppercorn-sized regions of the brain every three seconds and create visual maps of how the mental work of thinking was allocated throughout the brain from moment to moment. To the scientists' surprise, there were two big differences in the brain activity patterns while participants were reading or listening to identical sentences, even at the conceptual level of understanding the meaning of a sentence. First, during reading, the right hemisphere was not as active as anticipated, which opens the possibility that there were qualitative differences in the nature of the comprehension we experience in reading versus listening.

Second, while listening was taking place, there was more activation in the left-hemisphere brain region called the pars triangularis (the triangular section), a part of Broca's area that usually activates when there is language processing to be done or there is a requirement to maintain some verbal information in an active state (sometimes called verbal working memory). The greater amount of activation in Broca's area suggests that there is more semantic processing and working memory storage in listening comprehension than in reading.

Because spoken language is so temporary, each sound hanging in the air for a fraction of a second, the brain is forced to immediately process or store the various parts of a spoken sentence in order to be able to mentally glue them back together in a conceptual frame that makes sense. "By contrast," Just said, "written language provides an "external memory" where information can be re-read if necessary. But to re-play spoken language, you need a mental play-back loop, (called the articulatory-phonological loop) conveniently provided in part by Broca's area."

The study doesn't attempt to suggest that one means of delivering information is better than another, Just said. "Is comprehension better in listening or in reading? It depends on the person, the content of the text, and the purpose of the comprehension. In terms of persons, some people are more skilled at one form of comprehension and typically exercise a preference for their more skilled form where possible. It may be that because of their experience and biology they are better and more comfortable in listening or reading," he explained.

Just carries out his research on the human brain through the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon (http://www.ccbi.cmu.edu). The language comprehension project is funded by the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Mellon University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Mellon University. "The Medium And The Message: Eyes And Ears Understand Differently, Carnegie Mellon Scientists Report In The Journal Human Brain Mapping." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010815082552.htm>.
Carnegie Mellon University. (2001, August 15). The Medium And The Message: Eyes And Ears Understand Differently, Carnegie Mellon Scientists Report In The Journal Human Brain Mapping. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010815082552.htm
Carnegie Mellon University. "The Medium And The Message: Eyes And Ears Understand Differently, Carnegie Mellon Scientists Report In The Journal Human Brain Mapping." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010815082552.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins