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Arnold School of Public Health


Behroozmand’s study finds increased brain activity when listening to live speech sounds compared to playback sounds

January 26, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

A recent study conducted by Assistant Professor Roozbeh Behroozmand and colleagues in the communication sciences and disorders’ Speech Neuroscience Lab, examined how individuals use auditory feedback information to produce and control their own speech. The researchers found that multiple areas of the speech network within participants’ brains demonstrated a significant difference in activity levels based on active vs passive listening.

Activity levels increased when participants listened to their own speech sounds during active speaking. In contrast, the results showed substantially less activity when participants passively listened to a playback of their own speech sounds. These findings provide new information on the neural mechanisms that enable individuals to use auditory feedback for speech production and motor control. They also provide better understanding within the field with regard to how speech is produced and why damages to these brain regions can impair function in patients with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or stroke.

By enhancing scientists’ understanding of speech mechanisms, this study, published in Neuroimage, can help researchers develop new technologies for clinical diagnosis and treatment of speech disorders. The findings also inform the clinical community about how damages to specific brain regions due to neurological disorders and stroke can impair speech.

As for next steps, Behroozmand recommends “clinical treatment of speech disorders focus on targeting specific brain areas that are involved in speech production and motor control.” Treatment methods using therapy, medications, surgery and brain stimulation should emphasize enhancing neural function of specific brain regions that are impaired in patients with speech disorders. Regions on which this study sheds additional light.

Originally a biomedical engineer, Behroozmand’s knowledge of speech signal processing, human brain electrophysiology and neuroimaging led him to study the neural mechanisms of the human speech production system. For the past nine years, his research has specifically focused on the neural mechanisms of speech production and motor control. His overarching goal is to use the research he conducts in the Speech Neuroscience Lab to gain knowledge that can be leveraged to develop novel diagnosis and clinical treatment methods to enhance speech communication and improve the quality of life in patients with speech disorders.