April 18, 2011

Language and the Brain: What Makes Us Human

From Brain Briefings:

No other species on the planet uses language or writing — a mystery that remains unsolved even after thousands of years of research. Now neuroscientists are taking advantage of powerful new ways to peer into the brain to provide remarkable insights into this unique human ability.

Do you trip over your words, struggle to listen to a dinner companion in a noisy restaurant, or find it difficult to understand a foreign accent on TV? Help may be on the way. Using powerful new research tools, scientists have begun to unravel the long-standing mystery of how the human brain processes and understands speech.

In some ways, language is one of the oldest topics in human history, fascinating everyone from ancient philosophers to modern computer programmers. This is because language helps make us human. Although other animals communicate with one another, we are the only species to use complex speech and to record our messages through writing. This newly invigorated field, known as the neurobiology of language, helps scientists:

  • Gain important insights into the brain regions responsible for language comprehension.
  • Learn about underlying brain mechanisms that may cause speech and language disorders.
  • Understand the “cocktail party effect,” the ability to focus on specific voices against background noise.

Click here for the complete article.

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