Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik, ArtLab Foyer
The Westend Lectures on Brain and Cognition with Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz:
The human infant brain: A neural architecture able to learn language
Although different human languages use different sounds, words and syntax, most children acquire their native language without difficulties following the same developmental path. Once adults, they use the same specialized networks, located primarily in the left hemisphere around the sylvian fissure, to process speech. Thanks to the development of brain imaging, we can now study the early functional brain organization and examine on which cerebral resources (i.e. the computational properties made available by the activated neural networks) infants rely to learn their native language. I will present experiments showing that the human brain is from birth on, expert in analyzing and representing speech phonetic categories on which powerful statistical analyses can be applied to recover their distribution, but also that it is able of symbolic computations, allowing the compression of sensory input in explicit variables that can be maintained in a working memory to be further manipulated.