Neural Networks language Processing

CNS Seminar: Nancy Kanwisher
Natural languages , Neural networks , Signal processing algorithms Tuesday, February 19th @noon
Nancy Kanwisher
Menagerie of Mind: Domain Specific and Domain General Components
The last twenty years of research in functional brain imaging has revealed a number of cortical regions that are very selectively engaged in specific mental functions, from perceiving visual motion to recognizing faces to thinking about what another person is thinking. I will briefly summarize my lab’s contribution to this enterprise, then focus for the main part of the talk on new work by Evelina Fedorenko tackling one of the domains of cognition where this question has been most fiercely debated: language.  Whereas classic patient studies for the last century and a half have indicated that language is dissociable from the rest of thought, most neuroimaging work has argued that brain regions engaged in language processing (particularly “Broca’s area”) are not specialized for language per se, but instead overlap with nonlinguistic functions such as music, arithmetic, and cognitive control.  In contrast, our work, using individual-subject analyses to maximize spatial precision, finds that the standard frontal and temporal regions that have long been implicated in language processing are remarkably specialized for language alone. Further, we show that a broad network of regions in frontal and parietal cortex exhibits extreme domain generality, responding more strongly in the difficult than easy condition of each of seven very different tasks (the “multiple” demand network, also variously known as the cognitive control network or frontoparietal language network). Thus, the human cortex contains both domain-specific and domain-general components, and in the case of language the two lie side by side within Broca’s area. Fundamental unanswered questions for the future are why some mental functions get their own private patch of real estate in the brain, while others apparently do not, and how exactly domain-general brain regions contribute to cognition.

Source: Cognitive Neural Systems Group

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