Researchers find neural 'auto-correct' that processes ambiguous sounds

on 29 August 2018
When life is as clear as mud

I often say to clients, that the 3M's are responsible for most of our life's difficulty. That has nothing to do with 3M, "Scotch Tape" it is to do with Miscommunication, Misinterpretation and Misunderstanding; sort those out and life just got a whole lot easier . . . 

Context turns a tent into a dent and you don't even know!

Through training, experience and exposure, I finally joined the dots, i.e. the link between everyday talk, self-talk and emotional and cognitive dissonance. There is much more at stake when we do not walk the talk because the conflict it creates grinds away at us like a cheese grater. In order for us to have a smooth, productive and happy life, the world inside, has to match the world outside. You just cannot say one thing and do another, without there being consequences! So, why not give your self-talk the once over? Why not ask friends if you speak clearly and unambiguously? Do you notice a lot of your conversations ending in conflict, disapproval or just being ignored? Then it may be time to do the 3M's course; aka Trans4mational Therapy Mind Management Training.

Generally speaking, I find there is way too much vagueness and ambiguity in most people's everyday language and the brain may have an auto-correct but nothing surpasses clarity and accuracy. When you correct the defective 3M's, your life just gets a whole lot smoother, you'll have more fun, friends, excitement and, best of all, you will likely get, "What You Want!"

Essentially I see my job as giving you, the client, what you want. However, in order to do that, I need to know what that is, so, What Do You Want? Why not write down what you want and email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a Free Evaluation on your clarity!

Hypnotherapy has an excellent record of helping people, with all manner of emotional, psychological and mental issues, to find peace and inner calm. It is the unique way in which hypnosis allows the inner workings of the subconscious, to rewrite the neural code that elicits such unwanted and illogical responses and help restore more correct and functional ways of living a good and productive life! Hypnotherapy; C'est la Vie!

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

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The Research: 

Our brains have an "auto-correct" feature that we deploy when re-interpreting ambiguous sounds, a team of scientists has discovered. Its findings, which appear in the Journal of Neuroscience, point to new ways we use information and context to aid in speech comprehension.

"What a person thinks they hear does not always match the actual signals that reach the ear," explains Laura Gwilliams, a doctoral candidate in NYU's Department of Psychology, a researcher at the Neuroscience of Language Lab at NYU Abu Dhabi, and the paper's lead author. "This is because our results suggest, the brain re-evaluates the interpretation of a speech sound at the moment that each subsequent speech sound is heard in order to update interpretations as necessary.

"Remarkably, our hearing can be affected by context occurring up to one second later, without the listener ever being aware of this altered perception."

"For example, an ambiguous initial sound, such as 'b' and 'p,' is heard one way or another depending on if it occurs in the word 'parakeet' or 'barricade,' " adds Alec Marantz, principal investigator of the project, a professor in NYU's departments of Linguistics and Psychology, and co-director of NYU Abu Dhabi's Neuroscience of Language Lab, where the research was conducted. "This happens without conscious awareness of the ambiguity, even though the disambiguating information doesn't come until the middle of the third syllable."

Examples of these stimuli:

The study -- the first to unveil how the brain uses information gathered after an initial sound is detected to aid speech comprehension -- also included David Poeppel, a professor of Psychology and Neural Science, and Tal Linzen, an assistant professor in Johns Hopkins University's Department of Cognitive Science.

It's well known that the perception of a speech sound is determined by its surrounding context -- in the form of words, sentences, and other speech sounds. In many instances, this contextual information is heard later than the initial sensory input.

This plays out in every-day life -- when we talk, the actual speech we produce is often ambiguous. For example, when a friend says she has a "dent" in her car, you may hear "tent." Although this kind of ambiguity happens regularly, we, as listeners, are hardly aware of it.

"This is because the brain automatically resolves the ambiguity for us -- it picks an interpretation and that's what we perceive to hear," explains Gwilliams. "The way the brain does this is by using the surrounding context to narrow down the possibilities of what the speaker may mean."

In the Journal of Neuroscience study, the researchers sought to understand how the brain uses this subsequent information to modify our perception of what we initially heard.

To do this, they conducted a series of experiments in which the subjects listened to isolated syllables and similarly sounding words (e.g., barricade, parakeet). In order to gauge the subjects' brain activity, the scientists deployed magnetoencephalography (MEG), a technique that maps neural movement by recording magnetic fields generated by the electrical currents produced by our brain.

Their results yielded three primary findings:

  • The brain's primary auditory cortex is sensitive to how ambiguous a speech sound is at just 50 milliseconds after the sound's onset.
  • The brain "re-plays" previous speech sounds while interpreting subsequent ones, suggesting re-evaluation as the rest of the word unfolds
  • The brain makes commitments to its "best guess" of how to interpret the signal after about half a second.

"What is interesting is the fact that this context can occur after the sounds being interpreted and still be used to alter how the sound is perceived," Gwilliams adds.

For example, the same sound will be perceived as "k" at the onset of "kiss" and "g" at the onset of "gift," even though the difference between the words ("ss" vs. "ft") comes after the ambiguous sound.

"Specifically, we found that the auditory system actively maintains the acoustic signal in the auditory cortex, while concurrently making guesses about the identity of the words being said," says Gwilliams. "Such a processing strategy allows the content of the message to be accessed quickly, while also permitting re-analysis of the acoustic signal to minimize hearing mistakes."

This research was supported by the NYU Abu Dhabi Research Institute (G1001), the European Research Council (ERC-2011-AdG 295810 BOOTPHON), France's National Research Agency (ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02 PSL, ANR-10-LABX-0087 IEC), and the National Institutes of Health (2R01DC05660).

Story Source:

Materials provided by New York UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Laura Gwilliams, Tal Linzen, David Poeppel, Alec Marantz. In spoken word recognition the future predicts the pastThe Journal of Neuroscience, 2018; 0065-18 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0065-18.2018