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Humans, monkeys share brain region for decoding language

Wednesday, Nov 18, 2015,16:04 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

London | Humans and monkeys share the brain region involved in recognising the basic structure of language, according to a new study that could help better understand language impairment in stroke or dementia patients.

Researchers led by Ben Wilson and Chris Petkov of Newcastle University in UK used an imaging technique to explore the brain activity in humans and monkeys. They identified the evolutionary origins of cognitive functions in the brain that underpin language and allow us to evaluate orderliness in sequences of sounds.

This new knowledge will help our understanding of how we learn and lose language such as in aphasia after a stroke or in dementia. Scanning the brains of humans and macaque monkeys, the research team identified the area at the front of the brain which recognises when sequences of sounds occur in a legal order or in an unexpected, illegal order.

We used a made up language first developed to study infants, which our lab has shown the monkeys can also learn. We then determined how the human and monkey brain evaluates the sequences of sounds from this made up language, Petkov said. The team first had the humans and monkeys listen to example sequences from the made up language, first developed to study infants, which our lab has shown the monkeys can also learn. We then determined how the human and monkey brain evaluates the sequences of sounds from this made up language, Petkov said.

The team first had the humans and monkeys listen to example sequences from the made up language, allowing them to hear what were correct orderings in the sequence of sounds. They then scanned the brain activity of both species as they listened to new sequences that either had a correct order or could not have been generated by the made up language.