Phoneticians are different from others in their brain structure, reveals an interesting study supported by the EU through a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship.
The researchers, Professor Golestani and his colleagues from University College London (UCL) and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging in the UK chose to study phoneticians, because their professional training is in adulthood and it can be measured accurately. Expert phoneticians specialize in the study of phonetics and are able to recognize the difference between similar speech sounds and subtle regional accents.
Yet, the researchers also claimed that it was not just training, but inborn skills that account for the difference. In the MRI scans they used they found significant differences in the brain structure, especially in the vital areas. The area that is related to experience and years of practice in analyzing the sounds of speech shows a marked difference. At the same time, the left auditory cortex that would have to be designed in the womb also shows a difference between language experts and ordinary people.
Sophie Scott, a Wellcome Trust senior research fellow, jokingly commented, "The finding may suggest a predisposition in some people to be interested in sound, and may help them decide to choose this kind of career. Perhaps this is why Henry Higgins [in "My Fair Lady"] became a professor of phonetics rather than, say, a professor of physics."
The study could help in treatment strategies of problems like developmental dyslexia, and also in second language learning.