A recently published study by researchers at the CBSU led by Lucy MacGregor (left) helps us understand more about the remarkable speed with which the brain can access neural representations of words – that is, memories of words encoded by the brain. Volunteers heard real words (such as “lake”) intermixed with nonsense words (“lape”) whilst their brain activity was recorded using MEG. Results showed that in as little as 50 ms after there was enough information in the speech signal to be able to identify the word (for example as “lake” rather than “late”), there was greater activation to the real words than to the nonsense words in the brain’s temporal cortex. The finding suggests that our brains can access long-term memories of known words faster than previously believed, and helps our understanding of the basic processes involved in speech comprehension. Current work is using the paradigm to test the speed of speech analysis of patients who have impaired language function
to try and understand more about the nature of their deficit.
The paper can be read here – Nature Communications.