Spoken verbal communication between people involves the relaying of information through the use of sound patterns in language. It is the assessment and remediation of this breakdown of sound patterns in the auditory pathway of an individual, an essential part of this communication process, that an audiologist is trained to do.
In a Nature Scientific Report dated February 27, researchers at Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania & Princeton University used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure the brain activity of three adult speakers telling stories and 15 individuals listening to the same stories via an audio recording at a later time.
The main objective of this study is to evaluate brain-to-brain coupling between the speaker and the listener in ordinary listening situations. In the study, brain activity was recorded when a speaker was telling a real-life story and later when listeners were listening to the audio recording of the story. Listeners’ brain activity was found to be coupled with the speaker’s brain activity.
Remarkably, higher coupling between the language centers of the brain was found to be associated with better understanding of the story.
With the recent advances in neuroimaging systems and methodology, like fNIRS, researchers can now address which brain processes are involved in social interaction between people. Who knows, but perhaps in the future audiologist can use this technology to see if their patients have their communication problem is related to hearing or listening.
Featured image courtesy mindfulworld