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http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/01 ... into-words
Researchers are a bit closer to understanding one of the brain's greatest accomplishments: making sense out of spoken language.
An area of the brain that interprets speech contains cells that respond to the dozen or so basic units of sound we use to form words, according to a team from the University of California, San Francisco..
The study builds on what linguists have already learned about the basic units of speech, Poeppel says. And he says it also shows how much neuroscientists still have to learn about how language works in the brain.
The research was possible thanks to six people who were in the hospital being evaluated for epilepsy surgery and who agreed to let surgeons place a special recording device on the surface of their brains. The device monitored the activity of groups of brain cells in what's called Brodmann area 22, an area known to help people understand words
The volunteers listened to recorded voices speaking phrases. Eventually the scientists had a record of each volunteer's brain responding to every sound used in the English language. Then the scientists looked to see precisely what the sets of brain cells were doing as each bit of sound passed by.