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Brain activity varies during between speaking with simple and complex grammatical forms

New research shows that languages that are often considered 'easy' actually require an enormous amount of work from our brains.

Speaking is something that comes across as an effortless process, almost working by itself. Our brain, however, has a lot of work to do when we construct a sentence.

Analysing the brain just before the speech

Researchers measured the brain activity of Hindi speakers while they described different images. This is the first time that the brain processes during the planning of sentences before speaking have been studied with high temporal resolution.

An ending with many possibilities

Researchers have discovered that although a language may seem "easier" to us at first glance, it actually requires more work from our neurons. They found that having fewer grammatical distinctions makes planning particularly demanding for the brain and requires more neural activity. The likely reason for this is that having fewer distinctions means keeping more choices open for speakers for how to continue a sentence.

The research is part of the NCCR Evolving Language, a new national research centre which has set itself the goal of unravelling the biological underpinnings of language, its evolutionary past and the challenges imposed by novel technologies.


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