Study sheds new light on how the brain processes speech
Boston Magazine - 02/19/2015
When it comes to the study of human physiology, few organs are more complex and intriguing than the human brain. Even though many areas of the brain are still a mystery to scientists, new research from Northeastern University, the University of Oxford, and several Boston institutions may help to bring researchers a step closer to understanding one of its most crucial functions: speech.
In a study published in February in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers concluded that human speech preferences are not determined by motor function as it’s been previously believed. Instead, these preferences are a result of what the study’s lead author, Iris Berent, calls the brain’s “abstract rules” for language. We prefer certain sound patterns over others not because they are easier to say, Berent says, but because those sound patterns conform to the brain’s linguistic guidelines. The conformity to these rules is what then triggers motor function, she says.