New research into human understanding of language suggests that the brain
comprehends speech by picking up on certain kinds of sounds – so-called
"This is a very intriguing glimpse into speech processing," study
senior author Dr Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist at the
University of California, San Francisco, said in a university news release.
regions where speech is processed had been identified, but no one has really
known how that processing happens."
Researchers wanted to track the brain's response to spoken sentences that
include all the speech sounds in the English language. To do so, they monitored
the neural activity of six patients who were undergoing surgery for epilepsy as
they listened to 500 English sentences spoken by 400 different people.
The researchers found that parts of the brain are tuned in to general
acoustic signatures instead of specific speech sounds like those made by the
letters B or Z.
"By studying all of the speech sounds in English, we found that the
brain has a systematic organization for basic sound feature units, kind of like
elements in the periodic table," Chang said.
The study appears in the journal Science Express.
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