Brainy connections: how we can read each other’s minds

Ever wondered how you can tell what a person is going to say, before they even say it? An international collaboration of neuroscientists has the answers. 

Words Natalie Cyra. Photography Sara Orme

While it might seem like a study to find out how and why couples, twins or best friends finish each others’ sentences, an international team of neuroscientists from Newcastle University in the UK and the University of Iowa, USA have been listening in on our ability to predict speech and found special neurons in your brain can anticipate events.

The experts, led by Dr Yuki Kikuchi and Prof Chris Petkov of Newcastle University had monkeys and humans listen to words from a made up language, and found that both could predict the next sound in the sequence. As this brain process is impaired in disorders like dyslexia, schizophrenia and ADHD, the authors say the study could help us better understand what is happening when our brains fail to connect the next step in speech.

They add that this investigation could help prognosis and treatment for people after a stroke or those suffering from dementia.

“Being able to predict events is vital for so much of what we do every day,” Professor Petkov notes. “Now that we know humans and monkeys share the ability to predict speech we can apply this knowledge to take forward research to improve our understanding of the human brain.”

Dr Kikuchi elaborates, “in effect we have discovered the mechanisms for speech in your brain that work like predictive text on your mobile phone, anticipating what you are going to hear next. This could help us better understand what is happening when the brain fails to make fundamental predictions, such as in people with dementia or after a stroke.”

See more from the study here .

The current May/June 2017 issue of Good features a hero story on brain training and new developments surrounding neuroplasticity. Its cover story also features the story of cover models and twins, Chrissy and Madi Hart who share a spooky brain connection. See more here .

Clothing credits for images: Chrissy (left) wears Juliette Hogan ‘Aggie’ cami, ‘Leonard’ pants and ‘Gene’ parker all in Umbra print. She also rocks Kathryn Wilson Footwear ‘Sammy’ trainers. Madi wears Juliette Hogan ‘Frankie’ dress, Charmaine Reveley ‘Maserati’ jacket and Mi Piaci ‘Nora’ sneakers. Both girls are carrying BLUNT Umbrellas.

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