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Dr Christopher Petkov, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, U.K.


Studies of the human brain regions and pathways involved in extracting speech and the structure of language have suggested that neuronal interactions occur within and between brain regions, such as ventral frontal and temporal cortical areas. However, the underlying neuronal mechanisms remain poorly understood. It is also unclear which processes are language specific and which are evolutionarily conserved processes (‘cognitive-domain general’) that can be studied in nonhuman animals. Our comparative work has developed neurobiological models for understanding two key aspects of communication: how the brain extracts voice-identity and the “grammar” of communicative sequences. The work is identifying evolutionarily conserved processes that underpin human communication and is helping to bridge gaps between studies in nonhuman animals, typical humans and language-impaired individuals. In this talk, I will overview our approach, techniques and the insights being obtained into frontotemporal networks and neuronal mechanisms supporting communication-related cognition.