New research on the neuroscience of tongue twisters—and stuttering—offers many insights into brain function and connectivity. Both tongue twisters and stuttering open windows into the brain's speech-planning processes.
A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is reporting new findings on brain function based on the comparison of two types of tongue twisters at the 166th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) in San Francisco this week. These findings build on previous research to help better understand the specific brain connectivity behind the complex timing and syncopation needed to speak a language.
In another study, researchers discovered specific changes in the connectivity between brain regions that cause some people to stutter when they speak, and solves the riddle of why chronic stutterers—like country singer Mel Tillis—can usually sing song lyrics without a stammer.
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Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, an MIT psychologist who is presenting the work at ASA, studies speech errors as a way of understanding normal brain functions. "When things go wrong, that can tell you something about how the typical, error-free operation should go," she said. In their recent study, the team from MIT, and colleagues, tried to determine whether they could induce different types of double onset with different types of tongue twisters.