Researchers Use Video Game to Crack the 'Language Code'

May 18, 2011 -

Carnegie Mellon University's Lori Holt and Sung-Joo Lim and Stockholm University's Francisco Lacerda are using video game training with a mock "alien" language to replicate the challenges of learning languages as an infant. The research found that listeners were to quick recognize word-like units. The study was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

To uncover how spoken sounds are decoded by the brain, the research team designed a video game narrated in deliberately distorted speech. The soundtrack (unintelligible babble in any language) was the only source of instruction for the 77 adult players in the study. After only two hours of play, the participants could reliably extract world-length sound categories from continuous alien sounds and apply that learning to advance through the game.

"Traditionally, when we study adult learning in the lab, it's nothing like how infants learn language," said Holt, professor of psychology at CMU and a specialist in auditory cognitive neuroscience. "This video game models for adults the challenge language learning poses to infants. This presents the opportunity to study learning in ways that are just not feasible with infants."

Lacerda, professor of phonetics and an expert in language acquisition, agrees that using video games is a promising new way to explore language learning.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to approximate the task facing infants by creating a setting where adults are forced to infer what the meaning of different sound elements might be, and to do it in a functional way."

The research has the potential to help researchers better understand and effectively treat a number of conditions including dyslexia and improving second language learning.

Lim, a graduate student in psychology at CMU and lead author of the study, has used the game to help adults learn English.

"Native speakers of Japanese can use this type of training to learn English consonants they have difficulty distinguishing," she said

Holt, director of CMU's Speech Perception and Learning Laboratory, is interested in taking the study further to determine how the video game and its alien soundtrack engage different areas of the brain to produce rapid learning. The next step is to investigate this by observing players with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to view real-time brain reactions to the video game.

Researchers will present their findings at the Acoustical Society of America's annual meeting May 23-27 in Seattle.

For more information on research at Carnegie Mellon, visit www.cmu.edu/research/brain.


Comments

Re: Researchers Use Video Game to Crack the 'Language Code'

I love this stuff.  I majored in CS and minored in linguistics; Watson's performance on Jeopardy was one of the most fascinating things I've ever seen.

Re: Researchers Use Video Game to Crack the 'Language Code'

That is just too cool 

Re: Researchers Use Video Game to Crack the 'Language Code'

This is really cool. Like really cool. I want to try doing that, play an unfamiliar game in an unfamiliar language, too bad imports won't work on my consoles.

-Austin from Oregon

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Goth_SkunkAnd just to be clear, that remark is firmly tongue-in-cheek, while also echoing statements made by those critical of GamerGate.06/30/2015 - 4:43pm
Goth_SkunkA fair point Andrew, and you are a very reasonable feminist. Though I would suggest that if you don't wish to be associated with the toxic elements present in feminism, I recommend disassociating yourself from them. Maybe call yourself something else? :^)06/30/2015 - 4:42pm
Andrew EisenGoth - By the by, you know how GamerGate doesn't like being painted with a broad brush? Well, I hate to speak for anyone but myself but I'm pretty confident in saying we feminists don't care for it much either.06/30/2015 - 4:10pm
Andrew EisenWell of course. Being a feminist doesn't mean rape can never be depicted in fiction.06/30/2015 - 4:03pm
InfophileIn fiction, it depends on the context. It's very easy to get "wrong," but there are cases where feminists have approved of how it's been shown (eg. the scene with Honor Harrington in the new compilation comic)06/30/2015 - 4:02pm
Andrew EisenThat would be an interesting alternate film though. Ray became a Ghostbuster to get rid of the spooks that had been sexually assaulting him.06/30/2015 - 4:00pm
Andrew EisenHe's not powerless against ghosts. That's very firmly established by that point in the movie.06/30/2015 - 3:57pm
Andrew EisenSo, if in the new movie, McCarthy or one of the other Ghostbusters has a dream where a pretty ghost goes down on her, I don't predict outrage (other than from those silly random no-name numbnuts on Twitter).06/30/2015 - 3:56pm
Goth_SkunkDream or not, it's still a scene that depicts a victim powerless to stop his attacker from engaging in an act of sex upon him. Even if he enjoys himself, it's technically rape. Hypothetically, he could feel traumatized afterwards.06/30/2015 - 3:55pm
Andrew EisenWell, he could always, you know, grab a proton pack and bust that rapey ghost! But again, it's still pretty clearly a dream.06/30/2015 - 3:53pm
ZippyDSMleeSo what dose GG stand for if its not been taken over my bigots??06/30/2015 - 3:52pm
Goth_SkunkI am assuming he's powerless to stop it, yes. I have no reason to believe a ghost would find itself in any way obligated to obey laws of corporeal beings. And it's not just about consent, but also about the means to stop the person engaging the sex.06/30/2015 - 3:51pm
Andrew EisenRape in real life? Absolutely (though "tizzy" isn't the right word). In fiction? Depends on how it's used.06/30/2015 - 3:50pm
Infophile"...it's rape. And that tends to send feminists into a tizzy." You say that as if rape isn't something to get into a tizzy about.06/30/2015 - 3:48pm
Andrew EisenBesides, it's pretty clearly a dream. Ray and the ghost are in some unknown bedroom. Then it cuts to Ray and the other guys in the firehouse beds with Ray rolling over in his sleep and falling off the bed. Looks like Egon is having a weird dream too.06/30/2015 - 3:46pm
Andrew EisenYou're assuming he's powerless to stop it. Maybe saying "no" or something would have stopped the ghost. Anyway, so, in your opinion, sex (oral or otherwise) is rape unless there's explicit consent?06/30/2015 - 3:44pm
Goth_SkunkBut, to be completely fair, that fact never dawned on me until 15 minutes ago.06/30/2015 - 3:43pm
Goth_SkunkAbsolutely. He doesn't consent, and is powerless to stop it because his attacker isn't corporeal. The fact that he's enjoying himself does not change the fact that it's technically rape.06/30/2015 - 3:42pm
Andrew EisenAlways came off as a dream to me.06/30/2015 - 3:40pm
Andrew EisenThat scene really reads to you like Stantz was being raped?06/30/2015 - 3:39pm
 

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