[rael-science] Brain "Reads" Sentences the Same in English and Portuguese

From: rael-science <rs@rael-science.org>
Date: Fri, 06 Jan 2017 07:48:58 +0100
Subject: [rael-science] Brain "Reads" Sentences the Same in English
and Portuguese
To: rael-science@googlegroups.com

Source:  [https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/news/news-stories/2016/november/brain-decodes-language.html]

**Brain "Reads" Sentences the Same in English and Portuguese **
        An international research team led by Carnegie Mellon University has
 found that when the brain "reads" or decodes a sentence in English or
 Portuguese, its neural activation patterns are the same.

        Published in[NeuroImage](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27771346), 
the study is the first to show that different languages have similar  neural
signatures for describing events and scenes. By using a
machine-learning algorithm, the research team was able to understand
the  relationship between sentence meaning and brain activation
patterns in  English and then recognize sentence meaning based on
activation patterns  in Portuguese. The findings can be used to
improve machine translation,  brain decoding across languages and,
potentially, second language  instruction.

        "This tells us that, for the most part, the language we happen to
learn to speak does not change the organization of the brain," said   
 [Marcel Just](https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/psychology/people/core-training-faculty/just-marcel.html),
the D.O. Hebb University Professor of [Psychology]
(https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/psychology/index.html) and
pioneer in using brain imaging and machine-learning techniques to
identify how the brain deciphers thoughts and concepts.

        "Semantic information is represented in the same place in the brain
and the same pattern of intensities for everyone. Knowing this means
that brain to brain or brain to computer interfaces can probably be
the  same for speakers of all languages," Just said.

        For the study, 15 native Portuguese speakers â eight were bilingual
in Portuguese and English â read 60 sentences in Portuguese while in a
 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. A CMU-developed
 computational model was able to predict which sentences the
participants  were reading in Portuguese, based only on activation

        The computational model uses a set of 42 concept-level semantic
features and six markers of the conceptsâ roles in the sentence, such
as  agent or action, to identify brain activation patterns in English.

        With 67 percent accuracy, the model predicted which sentences were
read in Portuguese. The resulting brain images showed that the
activation patterns for the 60 sentences were in the same brain
locations and at similar intensity levels for both English and
Portuguese sentences.

        Additionally, the results revealed the activation patterns could be
grouped into four semantic categories, depending on the sentenceâs
focus: people, places, actions and feelings. The groupings were very
similar across languages, reinforcing the organization of information
in  the brain is the same regardless of the language in which it is

        "The cross-language prediction model captured the conceptual gist of
 the described event or state in the sentences, rather than depending
on  particular language idiosyncrasies. It demonstrated a
meta-language  prediction capability from neural signals across
people, languages and  bilingual status," said Ying Yang, a
postdoctoral associate in  psychology at CMU and first author of the

        Discovering that the brain decodes sentences the same in different
languages is one of the many brain research breakthroughs to happen at
 Carnegie Mellon. CMU has created some of the first cognitive tutors,
helped to develop the Jeopardy-winning Watson, founded a
groundbreaking  doctoral program in neural computation, and is the
birthplace of  artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology.
Building on its  strengths in biology, computer science, psychology,
statistics and  engineering, CMU launched [BrainHub]
(http://www.cmu.edu/research/brain/), an initiative that
focuses on how the structure and activity of the brain give rise to
complex behaviors.

        In addition to Just and Yang, the research team included CMUâs Jing
Wang and Vladimir Cherkassky and Cyntia Bailer of the Federal
University  of Santa Catarina in Brazil.

        The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI),
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), via the U.S.
Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), funded this research.