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Scientists Pinpoint a Speech Center in Brain

Discovery suggests a specific area dedicated to this task

MONDAY, May 18, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've pinpointed a part of the brain that processes speech.

The finding about the superior temporal sulcus -- located in the temporal lobe -- helps resolve the decades-old question about whether there are certain regions of the brain exclusively dedicated to managing speech, the New York University research team said.

"We now know there is at least one part of the brain that specializes in the processing of speech and doesn't have a role in handling other sounds," study senior author David Poeppel, a professor in the department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, said in a university news release.

He and his colleagues scanned the brains of volunteers as they listened to speech and other sounds ranging from dogs barking to ping pong to fireworks. To determine whether the participants were actually responding to speech sounds rather than to a familiar language, the researchers played recorded German words, which none of the participants understood.

All types of sounds triggered activity in the temporal lobe's auditory cortex. However, only the superior temporal sulcus showed activity in response to the speech sounds, which suggests that it specializes in processing speech, the researchers said.

The study was published May 18 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders outlines speech and language development.

SOURCE: New York University, news release, May 18, 2015
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