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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 10;107(32):14425-30. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1008662107. Epub 2010 Jul 26.

Speaker-listener neural coupling underlies successful communication.

Author information

1
Joseph Henry Laboratories of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.

Abstract

Verbal communication is a joint activity; however, speech production and comprehension have primarily been analyzed as independent processes within the boundaries of individual brains. Here, we applied fMRI to record brain activity from both speakers and listeners during natural verbal communication. We used the speaker's spatiotemporal brain activity to model listeners' brain activity and found that the speaker's activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener's activity. This coupling vanishes when participants fail to communicate. Moreover, though on average the listener's brain activity mirrors the speaker's activity with a delay, we also find areas that exhibit predictive anticipatory responses. We connected the extent of neural coupling to a quantitative measure of story comprehension and find that the greater the anticipatory speaker-listener coupling, the greater the understanding. We argue that the observed alignment of production- and comprehension-based processes serves as a mechanism by which brains convey information.

PMID:
20660768
PMCID:
PMC2922522
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1008662107
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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