Brain ‘talks over’ boring speech quotes
Storytelling is a skill not everyone can master, but even the most crashing bore gets help from their audience’s brain which ‘talks over’ their monotonous quotes, according to scientists.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology investigated the ‘voice-selective’ areas of the brain and revealed that when listening to someone monotonously repeating direct speechquotations, the brain will ‘talk over’ the speaker to make the quotes more vivid.
Previously, the researchers had shown the brain ‘talks’ when silently reading direct quotations.
Dr Bo Yao, the principal investigator of the study, said: “You may think the brain need not produce its own speech while listening to one that is already available.
“But, apparently, the brain is very picky on the speech it hears. When the brain hears monotonously-spoken direct speech quotations which it expects to be more vivid, the brain simply ‘talks over’ the speech it hears with more vivid speech utterances of its own.”
The research was conducted by Dr Yao and colleagues Professor Pascal Belin and Professor Christoph Scheepers within the Institute’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging.
The team enlisted 18 participants in the study and scanned their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they listened to audio clips of short stories containing direct or indirect speech quotations. The direct speech quotations — e.g., Mary said excitedly: “The latest Sherlock Holmes film is fantastic!” – were either spoken ‘vividly’ or ‘monotonously’ (i.e., with or without much variation in speech melody).
The results showed that listening to monotonously spoken direct speech quotations increased brain activity in the ‘voice-selective areas’ of the brain. These voice-selective areas – originally discovered by Prof Belin – are certain areas of the auditory cortex which are particularly interested in human voices when stimulated by actual speech sounds perceived by the ears.