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BrainFacts.org

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

Source: Science Friday
Unraveling the speech patterns behind tongue twisters and Valley girls ... and boys.
Source: TED
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.
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 in the News

Source: NPR Shots Blog
Date: 14 Jan 2015
An Orangutan named Tilda is providing scientists with fresh evidence that even early human ancestors had the ability to make speech-like vocalizations.
Source: The Washington Post | Speaking of Science Blog
Date: 11 Dec 2014
Source: LiveScience
Date: 12 Sept 2014
People who speak two languages may have brains that are more efficient at language processing and other tasks, new research suggests.
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