Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain Section Multitasks, Handling Phonetics And Decision-making

Date:
July 1, 2009
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
Scientists have found that a portion of the brain that handles decision-making also helps decipher different sounds.

Subtle differences. MRI studies showed that test subjects reacted to different sounds — ta and da, for example — but appeared to recognize the same sound even when pronounced with slight variations. These five sounds are the same, but the fifth (right) has a slightly different pronunciation.
Credit: Image courtesy of Brown University

A front portion of the brain that handles tasks like decision-making also helps decipher different phonetic sounds, according to new Brown University research.

Related Articles


This section of the brain — the left inferior frontal sulcus — treats different pronunciations of the same speech sound (such as a ‘d’ sound) the same way.

In determining this, scientists have solved a mystery. “No two pronunciations of the same speech sound are exactly alike. Listeners have to figure out whether these two different pronunciations are the same speech sound such as a ‘d’ or two different sounds such as a ‘d’ sound and a ‘t’ sound,” said Emily Myers, assistant professor (research) of cognitive and linguistic sciences at Brown University. “No one has shown before what areas of the brain are involved in these decisions.”

Sheila Blumstein, the study’s principal investigator, said the findings provide a window into how the brain processes speech.

“As human beings we spend much of our lives categorizing the world, and it appears as though we use the same brain areas for language that we use for categorizing non-language things like objects, said Blumstein, the Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences at Brown.

Researchers from Brown University’s Department of Neuroscience and from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati also took part in the study. Details will be published in the July issue of the journal Psychological Science.

To conduct the research, scientists studied 13 women and five men, ages 19 to 29. All were brought into an MRI scanner at Brown University’s Magnetic Resonance Facility. An MRI machine, with its powerful magnet, allows technicians to measure blood flow in response to different types of stimuli.

Subjects were asked to listen to repetitive syllables in a row as they lay in the scanner. The sounds were derived from recorded, synthesized speech. Initially subjects would hear identical “dah” or “tah” sounds — four in a row — which would reduce brain activity because of the repetition. The fifth sound could be the same or a different sound.

Researchers found that the brain signal in the left inferior frontal sulcus changed when the final sound was a different one. But if the final sound was only a different pronunciation of the same sound, the brain’s response remained steady.

Myers and Blumstein said the study matters in the bid to understand language and speaking and how the brain is able to understand certain sounds and pronunciations.

“What these results suggest is that [the left inferior frontal sulcus] is a shared resource used for both language and non-language categorization,” Blumbstein said.

Financial support for the study came from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), an Institute of the National Institutes of Health, and the Ittleson Foundation.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Brown University. "Brain Section Multitasks, Handling Phonetics And Decision-making." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630132101.htm>.
Brown University. (2009, July 1). Brain Section Multitasks, Handling Phonetics And Decision-making. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630132101.htm
Brown University. "Brain Section Multitasks, Handling Phonetics And Decision-making." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630132101.htm (accessed November 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
100-Year-Old Woman Sees Ocean for First Time

100-Year-Old Woman Sees Ocean for First Time

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) Ruby Holt spent most of her 100 years on a farm in rural Tennessee, picking cotton and raising four children. She saw the ocean for the first time thanks to her assisted living center and a group that grants wishes to the elderly. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
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