NSIGHTS FROM NEUROSCIENCE: HOW TO ISOLATE SOUND REPRESENTATIONS FROM LINGUISTIC STRUCTURES. TOWARDS A NEURAL DECODING OF HUMAN SPEECH

New results and data from the brain decoding experiment led by a research team of Sant’Anna School, Scuola Universitaria Superiore IUSS - Pavia, Ospedale Niguarda - Milano and the Lausanne Polytechnic under the supervision of Professor Silvestro Micera and Professor Andrea Moro were published today in Scientific Reports, an open access journal from the publishers of Nature. Scientists have taken a step closer to decoding speech from neural activity; they made a preliminary distinction between single words in isolation, syntax, and words in sequences that our brain performs simultaneously.

Isolating electrophysiological information solely related to syntax seems to be an impossible task since sound representation is intertwined with syntactic information even during inner speech. However, researchers explored the auditory stimuli presented to the subjects through homophonous sequences (in Italian), i.e. strings of words with the same sound such as "la porta”, “ieri la porta era chiusa” and “Pietro la porta via”.

Scientists measured a different electrophysiological correlates of verb phrases vs. noun phrases in multiple cortical areas in both hemispheres, including language areas and their homologous in the non-dominant hemisphere. Andrea Moro pointed out that “The study findings contribute to the ultimate goal of a complete neural decoding of linguistic structures and a translation of brain activity into speech to help people restore communication.”