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Patricia Kuhl: The Linguistic Genius of Babies

Patricia Kuhl shares astonishing findings about how babies learn one language over another — by listening to the humans around them and "taking statistics" on the sounds they need to know.

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Birdsong

By studying how baby birds learn to sing scientists hope to gain insight into the neural mechanisms by which humans learn to speak.

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Introduction

From the moment we wake up, we are bombarded with language — be it a friendly hello from a neighbor or a text from a friend. Although many animals communicate with one another, our ability to produce and comprehend complex language separates us from other species. Scientists have long attempted to understand this uniquely human skill by studying people who are born with speech and language problems, or who develop them following brain injury. Recent technological advances allow researchers to peer into the brain, illuminating the areas at work when we talk, listen, and write. Ongoing studies are helping researchers identify genes important for communication that may be affected in disorders such as autism, which is marked by deficits in language and social communication. Studies of animals such as songbirds and mice are also providing scientists clues about social communication and are ultimately helping shed light on how humans learn to speak.

Discoveries

Searching for Answers: Improving Language and Literacy

Source: Society for Neuroscience
In this video, doctors, researchers, and patients talk about a specialized training program intended to improve language ability.

The Bilingual Brain

Source: Society for Neuroscience
As scientists unlock more of the neurological secrets of the bilingual brain, they're learning that speaking more than one language may have cognitive benefits that extend from childhood into old age.

Genes and Language

Source: Society for Neuroscience

The discovery of genes directly related to language offers a new way to examine speech and communication disorders.


Dyslexia

Source: Society for Neuroscience
An estimated 8 to 10 percent of children in the U.S. have some form of learning disability involving difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These problems often occur in people with normal or even high intelligence.

Language and the Brain: What Makes Us Human

Source: Society for Neuroscience
No other species on the planet uses language or writing. Now neuroscientists are taking advantage of new ways to peer into the brain to provide remarkable insights into this unique human ability.

Language in the News

How Brains See Music as Language

Source: The Atlantic
Date: 19 Feb 2014
A new Johns Hopkins study looks at the neuroscience of jazz and the power of improvisation.

Brain Responds to Tiniest Speech Details

Source: Nature
Date: 30 Jan 2014
Scientists begin to unravel how neurons recognize specific language sounds.

Research Challenges Idea That Less Brain Tissue Causes Dyslexia

Date: 29 Jan 2014
New study helps clarify what might be causing a difference in the amount of gray matter seen in the brain.

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