Neuroimaging reveals detailed semantic maps across human cerebral cortex

In the functional MRI room at the University of California, Berkeley, it’s story time. All in all, getting a brain scan for this project on language learning isn’t a bad gig -- just kick back, listen to some stories and watch some videos. But it’s far from a midday break for the scientists conducting this research. With support from the National Science Foundation, neuroscientist Jack Gallant and his team are discovering how language-related information is represented and processed in the human brain. Using functional MRI, they measure changes in blood flow throughout the brain about once every second while people listen to natural narrative stories. The researchers then use Big Data methods to construct mathematical models of language processing and create detailed maps that show how different aspects of language are represented in different locations in the brain. In previous work, they showed that they could use models of visual processing to decode the objects and actions in movies solely from brain activity, and it is possible that the new language models might also be useful for brain decoding. Gallant says the practical applications could one day include new therapies to help stroke patients recover language skills, designs for faster computers and even brain-machine interfaces that would allow communication without speech.

Provided by the National Science Foundation

Runtime: 3:09

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