Greg Hickok, neuroscientist, professor of cognitive sciences at the University of California, Irvine, was recently awarded a grant by The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) which is part of The National Institute of Health ($2.4 million for 5 years).
This will help in his research to understand how the brain converts sound waves into meaningful language.
This research is a collaborative work along with the University of California San Diego, University of Southern California and the University of Iowa.
The research is mainly done to improve the lives of those suffering from language disorders due to various reasons like stroke, Alzheimer's disease and autism.
The mechanism of conversion of sound waves into language is that fluctuations in air pressure are perceived in the ears but the second part of conversion is a multifarious task.
This research will provide an insight of how the brain converts the sound waves into language.
Statistics reveal that 1 million people in US are already suffering from aphasia or Language disorders and 80000 new cases are emerging every year.
The reason for aphasia can be a recent stroke or patients suffering from Alzheimer's and autism. By understanding the mechanism of speech development these patients can be benefited.
The research plans to study 50 people both healthy and patients affected by aphasia (due to stroke) by employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology.
This technique quantifies the blood flow. It also records the brain activity in different region and analyze which part of the brain is related to speech or language use. By analyzing the brain damages in various regions it can be associated to different types of language deficits.
By comparing the results obtained from both healthy and aphasic patients it will be possible to determine the active areas of the brain during speech processing.