'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: Sexualized body image has negative effect on young adolescent girls

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

3 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —A new study from researchers in our Department of Psychology with colleagues at Queen Mary University of London has reported the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects ...

Learning from robots

Oct 29, 2014

In a Bavarian village, Mathias Hubrich is building remotely controlled robots designed to perform tasks too dangerous for human beings. Robots are now also being used as teaching aids because their Siemens ...

Optimizing how wind turbines work with machine learning

Oct 14, 2014

Machine learning helps make complex systems more efficient. Regardless of whether the systems in question are steel mills or gas turbines, they can learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and ...

Recommended for you

Social ties matter beyond bushfires

23 minutes ago

In the first major release of findings from the Beyond Bushfires study of the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires, researchers from the University of Melbourne have been able to show the social element ...

Mom's prenatal hardship turns baby's genes on and off

53 minutes ago

In January 1998 five days of freezing rain collapsed the electrical grid of the Canadian province of Québec. The storm left more than 3 million people without electricity for anywhere from a few hours to ...

Smoking rates high among people with psychotic illness

1 hour ago

The rate of smoking among people in Adelaide's northern suburbs who suffer from a psychotic illness is much greater than the national average and is contributing to other major health problems, according to new research from ...

EEG test to help understand and treat schizophrenia

18 hours ago

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have validated an EEG test to study and treat schizophrenia. The findings, published in two separate studies, offer a clinical test that could be used ...

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.