Friday, August 6, 2010

Helpful hints for public speakers

Speaker-listener neural coupling underlies successful communication

Greg Stephens, Lauren Silbert & Uri Hasson
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 August 2010, Pages 14425-14430

Verbal communication is a joint activity; however, speech production and comprehension have primarily been analyzed as independent processes within the boundaries of individual brains. Here, we applied fMRI to record brain activity from both speakers and listeners during natural verbal communication. We used the speaker's spatiotemporal brain activity to model listeners' brain activity and found that the speaker's activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener's activity. This coupling vanishes when participants fail to communicate. Moreover, though on average the listener's brain activity mirrors the speaker's activity with a delay, we also find areas that exhibit predictive anticipatory responses. We connected the extent of neural coupling to a quantitative measure of story comprehension and find that the greater the anticipatory speaker-listener coupling, the greater the understanding. We argue that the observed alignment of production- and comprehension-based processes serves as a mechanism by which brains convey information.


Grace said...

Should I use more bodily gestures when increasing the quantitative neural coupling when seeking increased qualitative understanding?

Josh said...

I certainly think that would help. Other research has noted that the handedness of the speaker indicates strong preference for making gestures about positive concepts with the dominant hand and negative concepts with the non-dominant hand. In other words, righties usually indicate their preference by gesturing with their right hand and indicate dislike by gesturing with the left. It stands to reason, then, that maintaining a consistent connection with handedness of your gestures would help you audience to more readily link with your brain-state.