Hearing through lip-reading
How the brain can create sound information via lip-reading
Credit: Bourguignon et al., JNeurosci 2019
Brain activity synchronizes with sound waves, even without audible sound, through lip-reading, according to new research published in JNeurosci.
Listening to speech activates our auditory cortex to synchronize with the rhythm of incoming sound waves. Lip-reading is a useful aid to comprehend unintelligible speech, but we still don’t know how lip-reading helps the brain process sound.
Bourguignon et al. used magnetoencephalography to measure brain activity in healthy adults while they listened to a story or watched a silent video of a woman speaking. The participants’ auditory cortices synchronized with sound waves produced by the woman in the video, even though they could not hear it. The synchronization resembled that in those who actually did listen to the story, indicating the brain can glean auditory information from the visual information available to them through lip-reading. The researchers suggest this ability arises from activity in the visual cortex synchronizing with lip movement. This signal is sent to other brain areas that translate the movement information into sound information, creating the sound wave synchronization.
Manuscript title: Lip-Reading Enables the Brain to Synthesize Auditory Features of Unknown Silent Speech
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JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience’s first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors’ changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.
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The Society for Neuroscience is the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.
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