Actually, it is a complicated process for our brains to figure out what words mean based on how they are said. Recently, the journal science published a report. The report was about the new discovered brain cells.
How Our Brains Figure Out What Words Mean?
The first study
Scientists say that these new cells are responsible for determining what the speaker exactly means. They believe that these brain cells help us to do that based on the changes in pitch of the voice.
Dr. Edding Chang, the neurological professor at the university of California, reported, “We found that there were groups of neurons that were specialized and dedicated just for the processing of pitch,”
The researchers explained this process, these cells help the brain to figure out the exact meaning “intonation” through the changes in the neurons. In contrast, there are other cells responsible for identifying the vowels and consonants.
“Intonation is about how we say things. It’s important because we can change the meaning, even — without actually changing the words themselves.” Dr. Chang explained.
The second study
There is another researcher called Claire Tang, the lead author of the Science paper. He worked on this process to know how the neural changes, based on the changes in pitch, identify the meaning of the voice.
He studied with his team 10 cases of epilepsy patients. They placed many electrodes on the patients’ brain for a short period to enable them to know the source of the patients’ seizures.
They monitored the activity of the patients’ brains while they are listening to a variety of sentences with changes in the intonation. “What we did was change where the intonation contour, the changes in pitch, were happening in each of those sentences,” Chang says.
It is known that if the sentence starts with a low pitch and ends with high pitch that means it is almost a question. On the other hand, if it starts with high and ends in low pitch that means it is a statement.
So, when the researchers monitored the activity of the patients’ brains they found that the cells that track the pitch have no ability to differentiate between low and high pitches. But the cells, which responsible for intonation exist in the brain.
“The identification of specialized cells that track intonation shows just how much importance the human brain assigns to hearing. Processing sound is one of the most complex jobs that we ask our brain to do,” says Nina Kraus, a neurobiologist at Northwestern University.
Surprisingly, intonation is a conditioned skill that some brains learn better than others.
So, the musicians are better at recognizing the pitch changes, intonation, than the other people.
“A typically developing child will process those pitch contours very precisely. But some kids on the autism spectrum don’t. They understand the words you are saying, but they don’t understand how you mean it.” Kraus says.
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