Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Study Sheds Light on How the Brain Distinguishes Speech

When I first made the switch from analog hearing aids to digital, when I was twelve years old, I was fascinated by the hearing aids' ability to mute surrounding sound, and help me to focus on what was important: a person talking in front of me, the television, etc. I asked my audiologist how my hearing aids could do something that seemed like magic to me. He replied... the technology has improved, but it's your mind that decides what's important. It's your brain, working with your ears, identifying important signals and discarding others.

A new study is now showing more about how our brains can do this, and how the mechanism works. It's particularly interesting in relation to how the auditory system works when you're speaking. The study was done on hospitalized patients with epilepsy. By having patients speak and repeat words and vowels, they were able to distinguish minute parts of the brain that were active and inactive during speech.

According to Adeen Flinker, the lead author of the study, "We used to think that the human auditory system is mostly suppressed during speech, but we found closely knit patches of cortex with very different sensitivities to our own speech that paint a more complicated picture."

It's suggested in the article that people who have schizophrenia may have trouble distinguishing their own voice from the voices of others, which may lead to auditory hallucinations.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting stuff! Thanks for the sharing this.

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