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Mapping brain activity before and during speech

15 February 2020

Articulating Words

Expressing ourselves through language is a unique trait that distinguishes us from other species. But what exactly happens in our brain during speech? A team of scientists set out to map brain activity before, during, and after we speak, focusing on the insula, a region in the middle of the brain whose role in language has puzzled neuroscientists for several years. By mapping brain activation patterns of individuals with electrodes implanted in their head as they performed speech and listening tasks, the team could identify which regions were most active before, during, and after speech. Before participants read out individual words (first half of video), most activity (in red/yellow clusters) was at the front of the brain. The insula only lit up after participants articulated words and sounds. Mapping the insula’s role during speech could help scientists to better understand the types of speech disorders that may develop after brain injury.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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