News Release 

Nearly identical representations of spoken, written words in the brain

Brain represents semantic information the same way, regardless of sense modality

Society for Neuroscience


IMAGE: fMRI activity from the listening task can predict the activity displayed during the reading task. view more 

Credit: Deniz et al., JNeurosci 2019

The brain activity evoked from processing written or heard semantic information is almost identical, according to research in adults published in JNeurosci. These findings add to the understanding of how the brain processes written and oral language.

Language is a complex process that involves many regions of the brain, and it was previously unclear if the brain represented spoken and written semantic information in different ways.

To clarify this, Jack Gallant and colleagues at The University of California, Berkeley used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record the brain activity of healthy adults while they listened to or read a transcription of a radio show. The research team mapped out the specific areas of the brain that responded to each word when it was read or heard.

The brain activity associated with each word was largely consistent across the two senses. The scientists were also able to use data from one sense to predict the brain activity that would occur due to the other sense. These results suggest that the same parts of the brain process information surrounding words, regardless if the word is heard or read.


Manuscript title: The Representation of Semantic Information Across Human Cerebral Cortex During Listening Versus Reading Is Invariant to Stimulus Modality

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About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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