How the human brain learns language
Washington: There is no single advanced area of the human brain that gives it language capabilities above and beyond those of any other animal species, says a new study from the University of Rochester.
Instead, humans rely on several regions of the brain, each designed to accomplish different primitive tasks, in order to make sense of a sentence.
Depending on the type of grammar used in forming a given sentence, the brain will activate a certain set of regions to process it, like a carpenter digging through a toolbox to pick a group of tools to accomplish the various basic components that comprise a complex task.
"We`re using and adapting the machinery we already have in our brains," said study co-author Aaron Newman. "Obviously we`re doing something different [from other animals], because we`re able to learn language unlike any other species. But it`s not because some little black box evolved specially in our brain that does only language, and nothing else."
The team of brain and cognitive scientists – comprised of Newman (now at Dalhousie University after beginning the work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester), Elissa Newport (University of Rochester), Ted Supalla (University of Rochester), Daphne Bavelier (University of Rochester), and Peter Hauser (Rochester Institute of Technology) - published their findings in the latest edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.
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