Imaging Technique Provides Insight into Speech Development

Our speech development is affected by numerous factors, including the pathway of the brain. What we hear and derive affects individual language development significantly. A research team from New York University used different imaging techniques to determine the effect of the brain’s pathways and its contribution to speech development.

Published on March 4, the research paper called Nature Neuroscience, involved structural imaging and neurophysical techniques, besides some behavioral tests. The study involved over 300 participants.

The study was divided into a few segments with some classical new segments. The first segment involved Series of experiments in which subjects were made to listen to rhythmic syllables in a sequence.

Syllables like “di”, “lah” and “fun” were used with simultaneous whispers “tah.” While high synchronizers were in accord with the whispering to rhythmic sequence, other low synchronizers remained unaffected by this rhythm.

Maria Florencia Assaneo, Ph.D., New York University Department of Psychology, and her colleagues wrote, “The combined behavioral, neurophysiological, and neuroanatomical results reveal a fundamental phenomenon: whereas some individuals are compelled to spontaneously align their speech output to speech input, others remain impervious to an external rhythm.”

The team further stated that their findings could also have implications to diagnose speech-related impediments and for evaluation of children’s cognitive-linguistic development.

The results further lead to more questions such as –  did the individual grouping based on rhythmic testing have a connection with the organization of the brain?”

The research also took into account some MRI data from patients to find out if at all the white matter pathways were different between the groupings. It showed that high synchronizers have a volume of matter in their pathways connecting the listening and speaking areas compared to the images seen of the low synchronizers.

To record neural dynamics, MEG (magnetoencephalography) was used for recording participants’ brain activities as they passively heard the rhythmic syllable sequences. While high synchronizers showed better connectivity between the brain and the sound, low synchronizers showed significantly lesser connectivity.

The research team wrote in an NYU news release, “This implies that areas related to speech production are also recruited during speech perception, which likely helps us track external speech rhythms.”

The group also derived that high synchronizers learned new words easily than the low synchronizers, even without understanding the real meanings of the words.

The author concluded saying, “Excitingly, the fact that our results scale up to an ecologically relevant task, word learning in the context of speech segmentation, has theoretical and practical implications for how individual differences in cognition and learning are understood and studied.” At SepStream®, we provide a wide range of imaging tools. We have customized settings to meet the needs of our clients worldwide.