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How selective hearing works in the brain
Date:4/18/2012

eakers. They were asked to identify the words they heard spoken by one of the two speakers.

The authors then applied new decoding methods to "reconstruct" what the subjects heard from analyzing their brain activity patterns. Strikingly, the authors found that neural responses in the auditory cortex only reflected those of the targeted speaker. They found that their decoding algorithm could predict which speaker and even what specific words the subject was listening to based on those neural patterns. In other words, they could tell when the listener's attention strayed to another speaker.

"The algorithm worked so well that we could predict not only the correct responses, but also even when they paid attention to the wrong word," Chang said.

SPEECH RECOGNITION BY THE HUMAN BRAIN AND MACHINES

The new findings show that the representation of speech in the cortex does not just reflect the entire external acoustic environment but instead just what we really want or need to hear.

They represent a major advance in understanding how the human brain processes language, with immediate implications for the study of impairment during aging, attention deficit disorder, autism and language learning disorders.

In addition, Chang, who is also co-director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses at UC Berkeley and UCSF, said that we may someday be able to use this technology for neuroprosthetic devices for decoding the intentions and thoughts from paralyzed patients that cannot communicate.

Revealing how our brains are wired to favor some auditory cues over others may even inspire new approaches toward automating and improving how voice-activated electronic interfaces filter sounds in order to properly detect verbal commands.

How the brain can so effectively focus on a single voice is a problem of keen interest to the companies that make consumer technologies because of the tremendous futu
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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jason.bardi@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert  

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