Saturday, April 15, 2017

What Parts of Our Brains Do We Use for Naming Songs?

from Scientific American

Name That Tune: What Parts of Our Brains Do We Use for Naming Songs?


Proper nouns are names for unique persons, places, and things. One of these “things” can be songs. Songs have specific names, such as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or “Jingle Bells.” When you hear a song, you often think of its name. We conducted a scientific study to find out which parts of the brain are important for naming a famous song. We already had some clues about which brain region might be important – we knew from previous research that the left temporal pole (LTP) is an important brain region for naming proper nouns.



Proper nouns are names for unique persons, places, and things. One of these “things” can be songs. Songs have specific names, such as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or “Jingle Bells.” When you hear a song, you often think of its name. We conducted a scientific study to find out which parts of the brain are important for naming a famous song. We already had some clues about which brain region might be important – we knew from previous research that the left temporal pole (LTP) is an important brain region for naming proper nouns. 
The Left Temporal Pole and Proper Naming
Have you ever seen a person and thought, “I know them! What is their name?” Imagine how frustrating it would be if you could not name people that you saw – even people that you knew very well. Previous research has identified a group of people who experience this on a daily basis. These people have brain damage to the LTP. The LTP is a region on the left side of the brain near the temples (see the colored region in Figure 2). Individuals with damage to the LTP have trouble naming unique items with proper names [1]. 
Look at the picture in Figure 1A. If I asked you to name this face, you would probably say that this is Barack Obama. A person with damage to the LTP might say that this is the president of the United States, that he has two daughters, or that he was first elected in 2008. While knowing this information shows that they recognize the face, they would be unable to tell me his name. The difference between recognizing and naming is important: recognizing means that you know who the person is and other information about them (for example, he is the President of the United States). Naming means that you are able to give the proper name of the person (for example, Barack Obama).
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