It was long debated that whether two big tasks related to speech - making it and understanding it - are really two separate tasks or whether they both use the same regions of the brain.
But now, a new study, which conducted by Donders Institute at the Radboud University Nijmegen, has found that speaking and understanding speech share the same parts of the brain, with only one difference: we don't need the brain regions that control the movements of lips, teeth, and so on to understand speech.
The authors used functional MRI technology to measure brain activity in people who were either listening to sentences or speaking sentences. They showed them a picture where a man was strangling a woman. This prompted people to say either "The man is strangling the woman" or "The woman is strangled by the man."
From this, the researchers were able to tell where in the brain three different speech tasks were taking place. They found that the same areas were activated for each of these tasks in people who were speaking and people who were listening to sentences. However, although some studies have suggested that while people are listening to speech, they silently articulate the words in order to understand them, the authors found no involvement of motor regions when people were listening.
The study is detailed in Psychological Science.