Images of tones: fMRI-studies on the processing of prosody in the human brain

Project: Research

Layman's description

The project aims at obtaining a better understanding of how and where in the brain tones associated with different kinds of linguistic information are processed. The language studied is Swedish, a pitch accent language that uses tones to distinguish between word- and sentence-structures that are associated with different meanings. The method used is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Although tonal information is widely used across the world´s languages to make distinctions at different levels of linguistic structure, we still know relatively little about how tones are processed in the brain. Swedish, being an accent language, provides an excellent opportunity to study this, since tones are used to make distinctions at the word, sentence and discourse levels. The project takes advantage of the ubiquitous presence of tones in Swedish to investigate whether there is a common basic processing core for tones with different functions, and how this core would be related to processing of the associated functions. Five functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) experiments are planned. The fMRI method has seen a tremendous development over the past decades, making it possible to localize processing networks in the brain with millimeter precision.

The project represents the first initiative to carry out research on the processing of linguistically related tonal information in Swedish using the fMRI method. The studies are carried out with research facilities at Lund University's Bioimaging Center.
Effective start/end date2012/01/012016/12/31


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