Brain 'hears' voices when reading direct speech

July 26, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- When reading direct quotations, the brain ‘hears’ the voice of the speaker, say scientists.

It is a finding long accepted as evident but never scientifically investigated, according to researcher Dr. Christoph Scheepers from the University of Glasgow.

Now a team from the University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging (CCNi) has established that reading direct speech activates ‘voice-selective areas’ of the .

Dr. Scheepers said: “Although many of us share the intuition of an ‘inner voice’, particularly during silent reading of direct speech statements in text, there has been little direct empirical confirmation of this experience so far.

“Few researchers have addressed the question of how the two reporting styles are represented in language comprehension, though direct speech demonstration is generally assumed to be more vivid and perceptually engaging than an indirect speech description.”

Dr. Scheepers and his team enlisted 16 participants in the study and scanned their brains using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) while they read different short stories. The results show that direct quotes activated voice-selective areas of the auditory cortex.

Dr. Scheepers added: “This reveals that readers are more likely to engage in perceptual simulations, or spontaneous imagery, of the reported speaker’s voice when reading direct speech.

“Several recent theories have proposed that people mentally simulate linguistically-described situations based on generalized experiences they have had in the past.

“Crucially, aspects of the reported speaker’s voice are very likely to be part of this perceptual stimulation process.”

Scientists have already shown that some areas of the auditory cortex are selectively sensitive to human voices when stimulated ‘bottom-up’ – that is to say, by an actual sound perceived by the ears.

However, other experiments have shown that the same areas can be stimulated by non-auditory stimuli – such as lip-reading. Now silent reading has been shown to do the same thing.

The research paper ‘Silent reading of direct vs. indirect speech activates voice-selective areas in the auditory cortex’ is published in the latest edition of the journal Cognitive Neuroscience.

Explore further: 'Motherese' important for children's language development

Related Stories

'Motherese' important for children's language development

May 6, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Talking to children has always been fundamental to language development, but new research reveals that the way we talk to children is key to building their ability to understand and create sentences of ...

The riddle of the Syriac double dot: The world's earliest question mark

July 22, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- Cambridge University manuscript specialist, Dr. Chip Coakley has identified what may be the world’s earliest example of a question mark. The symbol in question is two dots, one above the other, similar ...

New toolkit will help identify early language issues

June 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new assessment tool will help prevent multilingual children being wrongly diagnosed with speech and language problems.

Recommended for you

The neural codes for body movements

July 21, 2017
A small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to researchers in the laboratory of Caltech's Richard Andersen, James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, Tianqiao and Chrissy ...

Faulty support cells disrupt communication in brains of people with schizophrenia

July 20, 2017
New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia ...

Scientists reveal how patterns of brain activity direct specific body movements

July 20, 2017
New research by Columbia scientists offers fresh insight into how the brain tells the body to move, from simple behaviors like walking, to trained movements that may take years to master. The discovery in mice advances knowledge ...

Scientists discover combined sensory map for heat, humidity in fly brain

July 20, 2017
Northwestern University neuroscientists now can visualize how fruit flies sense and process humidity and temperature together through a "sensory map" within their brains, according to new research.

Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons

July 20, 2017
Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have opened a black box in the brain whose contents explain one of the remarkable yet mysterious facts of life.

Speech language therapy delivered through the Internet leads to similar improvements as in-person treatment

July 20, 2017
Telerehabilitation helps healthcare professionals reach more patients in need, but some worry it doesn't offer the same quality of care as in-person treatment. This isn't the case, according to recent research by Baycrest.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Probability
not rated yet Jul 26, 2011
Can we get a ' 1' share button please Medicalxpress? Physorg has one!
hush1
not rated yet Jul 26, 2011
"Can we get a ' 1' share button please Medicalxpress? Physorg has one!" - Probablility

Your expression expresses dissatisfaction. That is my assumption. Without further input from you no one knows why.
hush1
not rated yet Jul 26, 2011
Kudos to Christoph Scheepers and team.
You have witness children giving dialogue to play things.

That observation will support your research and hypothesis.

Auditory cortex is crucial to any working definition of 'learning'. The nature of all stimulus is physical. Without a physical basis for stimulus, you can not define what you label life or death. Nothing exists.

Do not overlook the support intrinsic, physical properties of sound will give your research.

What 'abilities' does the auditory cortex 'adopt' when the stimuli in which nature originally provided for (to be placed upon the auditory cortex) is not or was never present?

Hint:
All sensory perception. There is sequential order the developing brain resorts to when original physical parameters can not be processed. The 'next' in 'line' is touch.
Why?
Hint:
The developing brain (gestation period) 'resorts' to locations in the brain for signal (external stimuli) processing and storage that 'mature' first capable to handle such

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.