Neuroimaging reveals detailed semantic maps across human cerebral cortex
Here in the functional MRI room at the University of California, Berkeley, it’s story time. All in all, getting a brain scan for this project isn’t a bad gig — just kick back, listen to some stories and watch some videos. But, it’s far from a midday break for the scientists conducting this research project.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), neuroscientist Jack Gallant and his team are discovering how language-related information is represented and processed in the human brain. Using functional MRI, they measure changes in blood flow throughout the brain about once every second while people listen to natural narrative stories. The researchers then use Big Data methods to construct mathematical models of language processing and create detailed maps that show how different aspects of language are represented in different locations in the brain.
In previous work, they showed that they could use models of visual processing to decode the objects and actions in movies solely from brain activity, and it is possible that the new language models might also be useful for brain decoding. Gallant says the practical applications could one day include new therapies to help stroke patients recover language skills, designs for faster computers and even brain-machine interfaces that would allow communication without speech. Findings from this research have been published in the journal Nature.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1208203, Cortical representation of phonetic, syntactic and semantic information during speech perception and language comprehension. The award was funded through NSF’s Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS) program.
The brain dictionary
Where exactly are the words in your head? Scientists have created an interactive map showing which brain areas respond to hearing different words. The map reveals how language is spread throughout the cortex and across both hemispheres, showing groups of words clustered together by meaning. The beautiful interactive model allows us to explore the complex organization of the enormous dictionaries in our heads.
Explore the brain model for yourself here: http://gallantlab.org/huth2016
Read the paper here: http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/nature17637
Scientists Discover Human Brain Is a Living Word Cloud
New research indicates the human brain is a living word cloud that responds to the meaning of words in more ways than scientists previously thought.