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Introduction to Brain and Behavior [NOTES] Part 14 -- I got a 92% in the course

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Florida State University
PSB 2000

Language  Nonhuman precursors of language • Chimps: attempted to teach chimps ASL or other visual systems. → Chimps didn’t use symbols in new original combinations → Used symbols to request, not describe → Produced requests more then they understood ⇒ Some understanding (could answer who, what and where questions w. correct type of answer, if not correct answer itself) • Bonobos: very human-like; what Kanzi learned: → 250 human words; language of 2-2 ½ yr old → Understand more than they can produce → Use symbols to name/describe → Request items they don’t see → Use symbols to describe past events → Original, creative requests → Why so much better than chimps? More language potential? Started younger? Method of training (observation/imitation)? • Nonprimates → Elephants imitate the sounds they hear, including vocalizations of other elephants → Dolphins learn to respond to gestures and sounds → Alex, the African gray parrot ⇒ Learned to give spoken answers to spoken questions (What color is the key? What object is gray? How many blue keys are there?) • What do we learn from this? → How to teach language to people who do not easily learn it → Our concept of language is ambiguous…  How did humans evolve language? • Hypothesis 1: a by-product of overall brain development/intelligence: → But some people w/ normal sized brain don’t have normal language; language requires specialization, not just expansion; Family w/ normal intelligence and normal activity in language centers but poor language skills (dominant gene) → Another problem: Williams syndrome: ⇒ Deletion of many genes on chromosome 7; decreased gray matter ⇒ Mental impairment, but skillful use of language • Hypothesis 2: an extra brain module, aka, a new specialization → Humans have a specialization, proposed by Noam Chomsky (1980) and Steven Pinker (1994), as a “Language acquisition device” → Built-in mechanism for acquiring language → Ease w/ which children learn language ⇒ Even if no one teaches them, they invent their own (Applies to deaf and hearing children) → Gene that is mutated in a family w/ pronunciation & grammar problems ⇒ This gene is found in both humans and chimps, but differs b/t the species at 2 sites ⇒ Has effects on brain development and structures of jaw and throat important for language ⇒ Problems? There are areas for language, but language isn’t always their only job. ⇒ Language might relate to the long period of development and dependency in childhood… → Selective pressure for social interactions among people, including those b/t parents and children, favored the evolution of language, and overall intelligence developed as a by-product of language → This hypothesis could incorporate a language acquisition device → Critical period for learning language → The younger the better…probably a “critical period” but no sharp cut-off age → No exposure to any language in infancy and young childhood  never develop much skill at any language → Learn foreign language before puberty to speak w/o an accent → What’s cool about being bilingual? nd ⇒ If acquire 2 language later, 2 separate areas, 1 for each ⇒ w/ aphasia, can lose 1 language and preserve other ⇒ Emotionality can make 2 language “tougher” ⇒ Bilingual individuals show more bilateral activation during speech (of either language) ⇒ Language areas of cortex are thicker  Where is language? • Left hemisphere → 95% of strongly right handed people have language on L side → 60% of left-handed and ambidextrous have language on L → Child w/ L hemispherectomy before puberty  can acquire language on R → R hemisphere is important for some aspects of language, like prosody.  Aphasia • Impairment of language • Can affect any symbol system (language, music, math) • Due to brain injury (traumatic, stroke, tumor, etc) • Can be very mild to very severe; Around 1 million people in US; Can happen to anyone; Can be transient → Purpose of spee
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