Print

Print


----- Original Message -----

> http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1137515,00.html
>
> Brain scan sheds light on secrets of speech
>
> How do we suck meaning from intonation? How do we disentangle multiple
> meanings? Science is getting closer
>
> Ian Sample, science correspondent
> Tuesday February 3, 2004
> The Guardian
>
> Scientists trying to unravel the workings of the human brain have
discovered
> for the first time how it plucks speech from other noises, breaks it down
> and works out more than just the meaning of the words.
> As Britain's research councils launch a push to understand what makes
humans
> master communicators, the results so far are startling.
> What has stumped researchers over the years is how we are so good at
> language and are able to convey and perceive information not just using
> words, but with more subtle devices such as intonation and rhythm.
> "There's nothing else like human speech in nature. As well as the
> information carried by the words, you can tell someone's mood, their
gender,
> their age and where they may come from. It's amazing," said Sophie Scott,
an
> expert in speech neurobiology at University College London.
> Among the big guns rolled out by researchers to crack the mystery of human
> language is the brain scanning technique, functional magnetic resonance
> imaging (fMRI). Able to take snapshots of brain activity, fMRI gives an
> unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the brain.
> Using fMRI Dr Scott has shown that the brain takes speech and separates it
> into words and "melody" - the varying intonation in speech that reveals
> mood, gender and so on. Her studies suggest words are then shunted over to
> the left temporal lobe for processing, while the melody is channelled to
the
> right side of the brain, a region more stimulated by music.
> ...
> The language of emails is also under intense scrutiny from researchers.
> Scientists at Edinburgh University analysed thousands of emails from
people
> who filled in personality questionnaires and found tell-tale signs that
> reveal how extrovert or neurotic you are. Neurotics were more likely to
> indulge in multiple use of exclamation marks or use "..." in their emails.
> They also showed a more erratic use of commas and adverbs. Starting a
> sentence with the word 'well' was also common among neurotics. Jon
> Oberlander, the Edinburgh University scientist running the research, has
> developed a "style checker" that can be used to check emails before they
are
> sent out. "You can run your email through this and it can suggest
> expressions that might help portray you in a better light," he said.
>