The Brains of Storytellers And Their Listeners Actually Sync Up

That’s the conclusion of a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. After conducting brain scans of a woman telling a story off the cuff and then of 11 people listening to a recording of her, researchers Greg Stephens and Uri Hasson say they found that the same parts of the brains showed activation at the same time, suggesting a deep connection between talker and listener.

Graduate student Lauren Silbert was the team’s storytelling guinea pig. She recounted tales of high school, like deciding whom to take to prom, while undergoing an fMRI scan.

As Silbert spoke about her prom experience, the same areas lit up in her brain as in the brains of her listeners. In most brain regions, the activation pattern in the listeners’ brains came a few seconds after that seen in Silbert’s brain. But a few brain areas, including one in the frontal lobe, actually lit up before Silbert’s, perhaps representing listeners’ anticipating what she was going to say next, the team says [ScienceNOW].

When the neuroscientists scanned the same listeners while they heard a story in Russian that they couldn’t understand, the coupling of brain regions didn’t show up.

The study certainly comes with caveats: Its sample size is small, and scientists don’t know exactly what causes the synchronization, nor the exact function of the brain regions in question to any more specificity than “language.” But Stephens and Hasson argue that their findings speak to conceptual common ground people must meet to make conversation possible:

“If I say, ‘Do you want a coffee?’ you say, ‘Yes please, two sugars.’ You don’t say, ‘Yes, please put two sugars in the cup of coffee that is between us,’” said Hasson. “You’re sharing the same lexical items, grammatical constructs and contextual framework. And this is happening not just abstractly, but literally in the brain” [Wired.com].

The findings leave neuroscientists with a host of directions in which they could go. Hasson says his team’s next step is to go beyond one talker and a bunch of listeners and actually study people engaged in dialogue.

Related Content:
80beats: Boom Boom Krak-oo! Have Monkeys Demonstrated Syntax?
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80beats: TV Can Slow Language Development, Even in the Background
DISCOVER: Why Has Steven Pinker Studied Verbs for 20 Years?

Image: iStockphoto

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Demetrios Georgalas (A Surviving Globalization Consultant) was born in 1961 in Bern and grew up in Athens. In1985, graduated from Surrey University with a Tourism Management BSc (Hons). In 1998, graduated from LMTB under Freie Universitat Berlin, with a Diploma Lasers in Medicine. His professional career was started in the private sector and at the same time he created his first consulting company D+G Consultants Inc. Worked for major multinationals in Greece and abroad (FMCGs / Pharmaceuticals / Tourism). Demetrios Georgalas, having established also Travelling 2 Greece a destination management company, while with the D+G Consultants working in the areas of BTL and special marketing projects. He is activated except from Greece in the Balkans and in Turkey, consulting his clientele with new innovative proposals. Apart from his enterprising activities, he dabbles at blogging, travelling and cooking while he is married and has two children. In conclusion Demetrios Georgalas is an Athenian, Greek, Agnostic, Traveller, & Liberal he likes sci-fi, photography, blogging, travelling and cooking and if you like fascism or any kind of dogma, keep out! Δημήτρης Κ. Γεωργαλάς Γεννήθηκε στην Αθήνα το 1961, σπούδασε Τουριστική Διαχείριση στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο και κατέχει μεταπτυχιακό τίτλο στην Βιοτεχνολογία. Έχει εργαστεί σε μεγάλα τουριστικά γραφεία του εσωτερικού, και σε πολυεθνικές σε Ελλάδα και Εξωτερικό, στο χώρο των φαρμάκων, των ιατρικών μηχανημάτων και των FMCG’s. Από το 2001 είναι ελεύθερος επαγγελματίας, με δραστηριότητα στην διαχείριση προορισμού, τον θεματικό τουρισμό και τις ειδικές ενέργειες marketing. Είναι παντρεμένος και πατέρας δυο παιδιών, διδάσκει ειδικά θέματα εξωτερικού εμπορίου και κοινωνικής δικτύωσης, σε επιχειρήσεις και οργανισμούς. Ασχολείται ενεργά με το διαδίκτυο από το 1993 με άμεση εμπλοκή στα κοινωνικά δίκτυα και στο «ιστολογείν». Φανατικός ταξιδευτής, ερασιτέχνης φωτογράφος, μαχόμενος αγνωστικός και φιλελεύθερος. Όραμά του μια Ευρωπαϊκή Ελλάδα. https://brexians.wordpress.com
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