15 years of brain research: Multisensory speech perception examined

by Bettye Miller

Research on multisensory speech perception in recent years has helped revolutionize our understanding of how the brain organizes the information it receives from our many different senses, UC Riverside psychology professor Lawrence D. Rosenblum writes in the January 2013 issue of Scientific American.

" and have largely abandoned early ideas of the brain as a , in which many distinct regions are dedicated to different senses," he says. "Instead scientists now think that the brain has evolved to encourage as much cross talk as possible between the senses—that the brain's sensory regions are physically intertwined."

The article, "A Confederacy of Senses," explains how research in the past 15 years has demonstrated that no sense works alone. An abstract of the article can be read here.

"The multisensory revolution is also suggesting new ways to improve devices for the blind and deaf, such as cochlear implants," Rosenblum writes. This research also has improved speech-recognition software, he says.

Researchers have discovered that the brain "does not channel visual information from the eyes into one neural container and auditory information from the ears into another, discrete, container as though it were sorting coins," Rosenblum writes. "Rather our brains derive meaning from the world in as many ways as possible by blending the diverse forms of sensory perception."

Rosenblum is the author of "See What I'm Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses" (Norton, 2010), and has spent two decades studying multisensory perception, lipreading and hearing. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. He is known internationally for his research on risks the inaudibility of hybrid cars pose for blind and other pedestrians.

Related Stories

Harnessing Our Sensory Superpowers

date Mar 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research in perceptual psychology and brain science is revealing that our senses pick up information about the world that we thought was only available to other species, Lawrence Rosenblum, UCR professor ...

Psychologist explores human perception

date May 13, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Faces tell the stories in UC Riverside professor Larry Rosenblum's ecological listening lab, as volunteer test subjects show that they can "read" unheard speech — not just from lips, but from the simple ...

Hybrid Cars Are Harder to Hear

date Mar 31, 2008

Hybrid cars are so quiet when operating only with their electric motors that they may pose a risk to the blind and some other pedestrians, research by a University of California, Riverside psychologist suggests.

How our senses combine to give us a better view of the world

date Nov 12, 2008

From a young age we are taught about the five senses and how they help us to explore our world. Although each sense seems to be its own entity, recent studies have indicated that there is actually a lot of overlap and blending ...

Recommended for you

The coming merge of human and machine intelligence

date 11 hours ago

For most of the past two million years, the human brain has been growing steadily. But something has recently changed. In a surprising reversal, human brains have actually been shrinking for the last 20,000 ...

How the brain makes decisions

date 12 hours ago

Some types of decision-making have proven to be very difficult to simulate, limiting progress in the development of computer models of the brain. EPFL scientists have developed a new model of complex decision-making, ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.