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Study uncovers neurons that can predict human speech before a word is spoken

Health/medicine

Study uncovers neurons that can predict human speech before a word is spoken

New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) Using advanced brain recording techniques, a team of researchers has shown how neurons in the human brain work together to allow people to think about what words they want to say and then say them. produce out loud through speech.

The study, published in the journal Nature, revealed insights into the neurons in the brain that enable language production and could lead to improvements in the understanding and treatment of speech and language disorders.

“Although speaking normally seems easy, our brains perform many complex cognitive steps in the production of natural speech, including thinking about the words we want to say, planning articulatory movements, and producing our intended vocalizations.” said lead author Ziv Williams, MD. , Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at MGH and Harvard Medical School.

“Our brains perform these feats surprisingly fast (about three words per second in natural speech) with remarkably few errors. Yet how exactly we accomplish this feat has remained a mystery,” he added.

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Scientists discovered neurons that contribute to language production and could explain the ability to speak when they recorded individual neurons in the prefrontal cortex, a frontal region of the human brain, using cutting-edge technology called Neuropixel probes.

They also found that there are separate groups of neurons in the brain dedicated to speaking and listening.

“Using these probes can therefore provide unprecedented new insights into how neurons in humans act collectively and how they work together to produce complex human behaviors such as language,” said Williams.

The study showed how neurons in the brain encode some of the most fundamental building blocks used in the construction of spoken words, from phonemes, which are basic speech sounds, to syllables, which are more sophisticated speech strings.

For example, the consonant “da,” produced by touching the tongue with the hard palate behind the teeth, is needed to produce the word dog, the researchers explained.

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By recording individual neurons, the researchers discovered that certain neurons fire before that phoneme is spoken aloud. Other neurons reflected more complex aspects of word construction, such as the specific assembly of phonemes into syllables.

— IANS

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