'Chatter Box' computer will unravel the science of language

Jun 12, 2008

Scientists are to use a powerful super computer to mimic the part of the brain that controls speech and language function to better understand what goes wrong after brain damage caused by trauma or stroke.

Psychologists at The University of Manchester have teamed up with colleagues in the School of Computer Science to develop the speech and language model using a computer system that will be up to 1,000 times more powerful than a standard PC.

Dubbed 'Chatter Box', the £940K, five-year study is linked to the £1 million 'Brain Box' project that aims to build this new breed of computer based on biological principles that will enable it to carry out highly complex functions like those performed by the human brain.

"The human brain contains about one hundred billion nerve cells or neurons that each have to make a simple decision as to whether to 'fire' or not," said Professor Steve Furber, in the School of Computer Science.

"Each neuron's decision is based on how many other connecting neurons have fired recently. When this simple computation is distributed over billions of neurons, it is capable of supporting all the highly complex behavioural characteristics exhibited by humans.

"The Brain Box computer is being built using simple microprocessors that are designed to interact like the networks of neurons in the brain allowing it to replicate sophisticated functions such as speech."

Once the team have successfully produced the machine they will use it to build a model of normal human language capable of reading, comprehending, speaking, naming and repeating basic words in English.

"To train such a model using existing computer simulators would take far too long – possibly more than a lifetime," said Dr Stephen Welbourne, in the School of Psychological Sciences.

"We will validate this model by showing that damaging it can lead to the same patterns of behaviour as those found in brain-damaged individuals.

"We will then use the model to predict the results of different speech therapy strategies and will test these predictions in a population of stroke patients who have linguistic problems.

"Our goal is to understand how the brain supports language function, how this breaks down after brain damage and the mechanisms that support recovery and rehabilitation."

Source: University of Manchester

Explore further: Grammar can influence the perception of motion events

Related Stories

Device may allow sensations in prosthetic hands

May 13, 2015

To the nearly 2 million people in the U.S. living with the loss of a limb, including U.S. military veterans, prosthetic devices provide restored mobility yet lack sensory feedback. A team of engineers and ...

Recommended for you

Grammar can influence the perception of motion events

3 minutes ago

Different languages can have subtly different effects on the way we think and perceive, a phenomenon known as linguistic relativity. In a new paper in the journal Cognition, researcher Monique Flecken from t ...

False breast cancer alarm has negative impact on health

2 hours ago

The psychological strain of being told that you may have breast cancer may be severe, even if it turns out later to be a false alarm. This is the finding of new research from the University of Copenhagen, ...

Friendships start better with a smile

15 hours ago

If you want to strike up a new relationship, simply smile. It works because people are much more attuned to positive emotions when forming new bonds than they are to negative ones such as anger, contempt or ...

Babies can think before they can speak

15 hours ago

Two pennies can be considered the same—both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.