Speaker-listener neural coupling underlies successful communication

Greg J. Stephens, Lauren J. Silbert, Uri Hasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

375 Scopus citations

Abstract

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 productionand comprehension-based processes serves as a mechanism by which brains convey information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14425-14430
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume107
Issue number32
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 10 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Keywords

  • Functional MRI
  • Intersubject correlation
  • Language comprehension
  • Language production

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