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Imaging Shows How Brain Controls Accents in Speech

Imaging Shows How Brain Controls Accents in SpeechA new UK study identifies the particular brain regions involved when a person performs impersonations and accents. Researchers believe the discovery can aid recovery from brain injury or stroke and improve scientific knowledge on communication.

Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, researchers asked participants, all non-professional impressionists, to repeatedly recite the opening lines of a familiar nursery rhyme either with their normal voice, by impersonating individuals, or by impersonating regional and foreign accents of English.

They found that when a voice is deliberately changed, it brings the left anterior insula and inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) of the brain into play.

The researchers also discovered that when comparing impersonations against accents, areas in the posterior superior temporal/inferior parietal cortex and in the right middle/anterior superior temporal sulcus showed greater responses.

“The voice is a powerful channel for the expression of our identity — it conveys information such as gender, age and place of birth, but crucially, it also expresses who we want to be,” said lead author Carolyn McGettigan, Ph.D.,¬†from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway University.

“Consider the difference between talking to a friend on the phone, talking to a police officer who’s cautioning you for parking violation, or speaking to a young infant. While the words we use might be different across these settings, another dramatic difference is the tone and style with which we deliver the words we say.

“We wanted to find out more about this process and how the brain controls it.”

While past work has found that listening to voices activates regions of the temporal lobe of the brain, no research had explored the brain regions involved in controlling vocal identity before this study.

“Our aim is to find out more about how the brain controls this very flexible communicative tool, which could potentially lead to new treatments for those looking to recover their own vocal identity following brain injury or a stroke, ” said McGettigan.

Source: Royal Holloway, University of London

Abstract of the human brain photo by shutterstock.

Imaging Shows How Brain Controls Accents in Speech

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Imaging Shows How Brain Controls Accents in Speech. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/06/19/imaging-shows-how-brain-controls-accents-in-speech/56235.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.