Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Learning by osmosis

17.11.2008
New brain images show subconscious learning in action and could be used to monitor language rehabilitation

When you listen to someone speaking, it may seem like the words are segmented by pauses, much like the words on this page are separated by spaces. But in reality, you hear a continuous stream of sounds that your brain must organize into meaningful chunks.

One process that mediates this ability is called statistical learning, by which the brain automatically keeps track of how often events, such as sounds, occur together. Now a team of RIKEN scientists has found a signature pattern of brain activity that can predict a person’s degree of achievement in this type of task1.

The team led by Kazuo Okanoya presented volunteers with a 20-minute recording of an artificial language, which they heard passively in three 6.6-minute sessions. While the recording played, participants’ brain activity was measured using an imaging technique called electroencephalograms or EEGs. The researchers then analyzed how the EEG patterns related to events in the recorded language.

This language, instead of being composed of pronounceable syllables, contained only tones, similar to keyboard notes. “We used nonsense tone words to detect basic perceptual processes that are independent of linguistic faculty,” explains team-member Dilshat Abla. This way, the researchers were able to focus on the brain-activity signature of general statistical learning, rather than the specific example of language. The recording heard by the participants consisted of six ‘words’ containing three tones each, but since they were played together without gaps, the word composition would not have been immediately obvious. The participants were told to relax and listen to the streaming sound, and at the end of the experiment, they were tested on which tone triplets came from their recording and which were randomly generated.

The participants succeeded in this discrimination, which revealed to the researchers that they had performed statistical learning without exerting conscious effort. Those who earned average scores in this test showed a distinctive pattern of brain activity in the third recording session. These electric signatures, known as event-related potentials or ERPs, tended to occur 400 milliseconds after the start of a new tone word. Those who scored the lowest did not exhibit these ERPs in any session, suggesting they were not segmenting the start of each word as effectively.

The highest-scoring volunteers did show these ERPs, but only in their first session. Abla explains that the effect is “largest during the discovery phase of the statistical structure,” and represents the process rather than the result of statistical learning.

1. Abla, D., Katahira, K., & Okanoya, K. On-line assessment of statistical learning by event-related potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 20, 952–964 (2008).

The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the RIKEN Laboratory for Biolinguistics

Saeko Okada | ResearchSEA
Further information:
http://www.rikenresearch.riken.jp/research/582/
http://www.researchsea.com

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis
23.01.2017 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>