Predicting “When” in Discourse Engages the Human Dorsal Auditory Stream: An fMRI Study Using Naturalistic Stories

Journal: Journal of Neuroscience

Published: 2016-11-30

DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.4100-15.2016

Affiliations: 6

Authors: 7

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Research Highlight

Predicting plot twists

© BlackJack3D/E+/Getty

© BlackJack3D/E+/Getty

The brain ‘listens’ to different kinds of story content through different neural pathways by separating speech into ‘what’ and ‘when’ components.

A team of neuroscientists at the University of South Australia in Adelaide and the University of Marburg in Germany scanned the brains of 22 German-speaking subjects as they lay inside a magnetic resonance imaging machine and listened to different stories that tested neural responses. The researchers found that the back part of the brain’s auditory system responded to time-related information — such as when a character reappears in a story — with weaker brain responses for anticipated story details, than surprising ones. The front part handled content-related information.

The finding, published in the Journal of Neuroscience , is the first to show this kind of split language processing extends to the rich discourses, narratives and texts that comprise our normal use of language.

Supported content

  1. Journal of Neuroscience 36, 12180–12191 (2016). doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4100-15.2016
Institutions FC
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, UKGM, Germany 0.33
Department of German Studies and Art, Uni Marburg, Germany 0.19
Institut für Psychologie I (IPSY1), Universität zu Lübeck, Germany 0.14
School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, UniSA, Australia 0.14
Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, UniSA, Australia 0.14
Department of Bioengineering, ICL, United Kingdom (UK) 0.05

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