Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Music in speech equals empathy in heart?

Date:
January 28, 2010
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
Brain circuits involved in prosody seem to operate on a mirror neuron system, according to neuroscientists. A new study also finds correlation between empathy and prosodic ability.

Study co-author Lisa Aziz-Zadeh.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Southern California

Some people are annoyed by upspeak: the habit of making a sentence sound like a question?

But actually, being able to change intonation in speech -- as in upspeak -- may be a sign of superior empathy?

A new study in the journal PLoS ONE finds that people use the same brain regions to produce and understand intonation in speech.

Many studies suggest that people learn by imitating through so-called mirror neurons. This study shows for the first time that prosody -- the music of speech -- also works on a mirror-like system.

And it turns out that the higher a person scores on standard tests of empathy, the more activity they have in their prosody-producing areas of the brain.

So increased empathic ability is linked to the ability to perceive prosody as well as activity in these motor regions, said authors Lisa Aziz-Zadeh and Tong Sheng of USC, and Anahita Gheytanchi of the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology.

"Prosody is one of the main ways that we communicate with each other," Aziz-Zadeh said.

In some cases, humans can't do without it, as in the case of a stroke victim who garbles words but can express emotion.

Or when talking to a pet: "If you have a pet, they basically are understanding your prosody," Aziz-Zadeh said.

She and her colleagues imaged the brains of 20 volunteers as they heard and produced prosody through happy, sad and other intonations of the nonsensical phrase "da da da da da."

The same part of the brain lit up when the volunteers heard the phrase as when they repeated it. It is called Broca's Area and sits about two inches above and forward of each ear.

The volunteers with the most activity in Broca's Area tended to score high on empathy measures. They also used prosody more frequently in daily speech.

It is not clear whether empathy brings about prosodic activity or whether frequent use of prosody can somehow help to develop empathy -- or whether there is no cause and effect relationship either way.

Aziz-Zadeh is assistant professor of occupational sciences with a joint appointment in the Brain and Creativity Institute of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Sheng is a USC doctoral student in the Brain and Creativity Institute. Gheytanchi is a postdoctoral researcher at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, Tong Sheng, Anahita Gheytanchi. Common Premotor Regions for the Perception and Production of Prosody and Correlations with Empathy and Prosodic Ability. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (1): e8759 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008759

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Music in speech equals empathy in heart?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100127085550.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2010, January 28). Music in speech equals empathy in heart?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100127085550.htm
University of Southern California. "Music in speech equals empathy in heart?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100127085550.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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