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Poster D41

What’s so special about language? A comparative study of linguistic vs. musical effects on tactile perception.

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Tally McCormick Miller1,2 (, Friedemann Pulvermüller1,2,3,4; 1Brain Language Laboratory, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, 2Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany, 3Cluster of Excellence “Matters of Activity”, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany, 4Einstein Center for Neurosciences Berlin

Recent research has demonstrated that verbal cues, when integrated with sensory information, can significantly enhance our perceptual discrimination of subtle differences. One question that remains unanswered is whether this perceptual enhancement can be driven exclusively by spoken words, or if non-verbal cues, like musical tones, can produce a similar effect. The current study explored this by associating hard-to-distinguish vibrating tactile patterns with either spoken words or musical notes, ensuring participants were exposed to both conditions by employing a within-subject design. This approach helped eliminate biases relating to individual, cultural, or linguistic differences. Associative training took place over the course of one week, as participants felt the tactile patterns simultaneous with both verbal and non-verbal cues. By assessing participants' ability to distinguish within sets of tactile patterns both before and after this associative training, we aimed to investigate any changes in perceptual discrimination performance linked to the auditory cues provided during the learning phase. Remarkably, only the tactile patterns connected with spoken words demonstrated notable improvement in recognition after the five-day training period, suggesting a distinct advantage of verbal stimuli in enhancing sensory discrimination. These finding prompt further investigation into the specific characteristics of speech that might facilitate this unique perceptual advantage, such as its acoustic properties, the commonality of its phonemes and syllables, and its sensorimotor aspects. Our discussion considers the potential mechanisms that could explain why spoken language is particularly effective in boosting perceptual discrimination performance, offering valuable insights into the intersections of sensory perception, language, and cognitive neuroscience.

Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Other


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April 13–16  |  2024