The brain has two big tasks related to speech: making it and understanding it. Psychologists and others who study the brain have debated whether these are really two separate tasks or whether they both use the same regions of the brain. Now, a new study, published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that speaking and understanding speech share the same parts of the brain, with one difference: we don’t need the brain regions that control the movements of lips, teeth, and so on to understand speech.
Most studies of how speech works in the brain focuses on comprehension. That’s mostly because it’s easier to image the brains of people who are listening quietly; talking makes the head move, which is a problem when you’re measuring the brain. But now, the Donders Institute at the Radboud University Nijmegen, where the study was conducted, has developed technology that allows recording from a moving brain.
Laura Menenti, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Glasgow, co-wrote the paper along with Peter Hagoort of Radboud University Nijmegen and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Sarah Gierhan and Katrien Segaert.