When you’re suddenly able to understand someone despite their thick accent, your…

When you’re suddenly able to understand someone despite their thick accent, your brain appears to be re-tuning to recognize speech that was previously incomprehensible. University of California, Berkeley, neuroscientists have now observed this re-tuning in action by recording directly from the surface of a person’s brain as the words of a previously unintelligible sentence suddenly pop out after the subject is told the meaning of the garbled speech. The re-tuning takes place within a second or less, they found. The observations, published in Nature Communications, confirm speculation that neurons in the auditory cortex that pick out aspects of sound associated with language – the components of pitch, amplitude and timing that distinguish words or smaller sound bits called phonemes – continually tune themselves to pull meaning out of a noisy environment. Read more: bit.ly/2hsOn2i

Journal article: Rapid tuning shifts in human auditory cortex enhance speech intelligibility. Nature Communications, 2016. doi:10.1038/NCOMMS13654/
Image credit: amyleonard/Flickr



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