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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Papa MidnightIt's not bad so far, but I am honestly not sure what to make of it (or where it's going for that matter)07/28/2014 - 9:44pm
Matthew Wilsonis it any good?07/28/2014 - 9:36pm
Papa Midnight"Love Child" on HBO -- anyone else watching this?07/28/2014 - 9:27pm
MaskedPixelanteNah, I'm fine purple monkey dishwasher.07/28/2014 - 4:05pm
Sleaker@MP - I hope you didn't suffer a loss of your mental faculties attempting that.07/28/2014 - 3:48pm
MaskedPixelanteOK, so my brief research looking at GameFAQs forums (protip, don't do that if you wish to keep your sanity intact.), the 3DS doesn't have the power to run anything more powerful than the NES/GBC/GG AND run the 3DS system in the background.07/28/2014 - 11:01am
ZenMatthew, the 3DS already has GBA games in the form of the ambassador tittles. And I an just as curious about them not releasing them on there like they did the NES ones. I do like them on the Wii U as well, but seems weird. And where are the N64 games?07/28/2014 - 10:40am
james_fudgeNo. They already cut the price. Unless they release a new version that has a higher price point.07/28/2014 - 10:19am
E. Zachary KnightMatthew, It most likely is. The question is whether Nintendo wants to do it.07/28/2014 - 10:12am
Matthew WilsonI am sure the 3ds im more then powerful enough to emulate a GBA game.07/28/2014 - 9:54am
Sleaker@IanC - while the processor is effectively the same or very similar, the issue is how they setup the peripheral hardware. It would probably require creating some kind of emulation for the 3DS to handle interfacing with the audio and input methods for GBA07/28/2014 - 9:30am
Sleaker@EZK - hmmm, that makes sense. I could have sworn I had played GB/GBC games on it too though (emud of course)07/28/2014 - 9:23am
E. Zachary KnightSleaker, the DS has a built in GBA chipset in the system. That is why it played GBA games. The GBA had a seperate chipset for GB and GBColor games. The DS did not have that GB/GBC chipset and that is why the DS could not play GB and GBC games.07/28/2014 - 7:25am
IanCI dont think Nintendo ever gave reason why GBA games a reason why GBA games aren't on the 3DS eshop. The 3DS uses chips that are backwards compatable with the GBA ob GBA processor, after all.07/28/2014 - 6:46am
Sleakerhmmm that's odd I could play GBA games natively in my original DS.07/28/2014 - 1:39am
Matthew Wilsonbasically "we do not want to put these games on a system more then 10 people own" just joking07/27/2014 - 8:13pm
MaskedPixelanteSomething, something, the 3DS can't properly emulate GBA games and it was a massive struggle to get the ambassador games running properly.07/27/2014 - 8:06pm
Andrew EisenIdeally, you'd be able to play such games on either platform but until that time, I think Nintendo's using the exclusivity in an attempt to further drive Wii U sales.07/27/2014 - 7:21pm
Matthew WilsonI am kind of surprised games like battle network are not out on the 3ds.07/27/2014 - 7:01pm
Andrew EisenWell, Mega Man 1 - 4, X and X2 are already on there and the first Battle Network is due out July 31st.07/27/2014 - 6:16pm
 

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