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

Feel free to check out my blog.

 
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InfophileFor reference, see https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/accountable - It just means you have to answer for it. It has nothing to do with being punished for it.07/30/2015 - 1:47am
Mattsworknameohh, gods that game is pretty, just not my style these days07/29/2015 - 11:49pm
Andrew EisenUbisoft's Child of Light.07/29/2015 - 11:45pm
MattsworknameEnjoy man, Im gonna be playing split second myself07/29/2015 - 11:45pm
Andrew EisenSorry. That just slipped out. Off to play.07/29/2015 - 11:43pm
Andrew EisenWords have meanings, people! Use the damn dictionary! They're online! They're free! Arrggghhhh!07/29/2015 - 11:42pm
Andrew EisenThis is just depressing. I'm gonna go play video games.07/29/2015 - 11:42pm
Mattsworknameproliferation of the whole "internet movment" thing, people dont debate, they try to attack and go after peole to shut them down, casue it's easier then trying to debate the issues07/29/2015 - 11:39pm
MattsworknameWhen you break it down, what it is is the shifting of the media lanscape and how it effects news sites and other groups. once upon a time, you could have run that same article and it would have created debate, not online campagns, now, cause of the07/29/2015 - 11:38pm
MattsworknameCall it waht you wil, but thats how its viewed, not just by me, but by just about EVERYONE right now. Media, new networks, they dont' want to call it what it is, soe they call it "accountability"07/29/2015 - 11:34pm
Andrew Eisen"Gamasutra... had to pay" Yes. That's EXACTLY what it was. "Accountability" is and always was horse poop.07/29/2015 - 11:29pm
MattsworknameSo to speak07/29/2015 - 11:28pm
MattsworknameThats why this happened, you get people who felt hurt, marginalize, bettrayd, or otherwise offended, and they don't actually look at teh facts, they just attack and try to get there Blood for Blood07/29/2015 - 11:28pm
Mattsworknamefalse. Weather you think the article was right or not, there was a large group who felt taht gamastura and the other media sites had to pay for there actions, weather they deserved it or not07/29/2015 - 11:27pm
Andrew EisenTrying to yank advertising over a single opinion piece on a site that I would bet money most of the offended (if you will) didn't read, is no more an attempt at accountability than the Brown shooting's subsequent riots.07/29/2015 - 11:27pm
MattsworknameMy point andrew is that it's not about them, its about the people responding to the situation. THe brown shooting was eventually shown to be completely justified, but the "Black lives matter" meme kept on rolling despite all it's intiall claims being07/29/2015 - 11:26pm
Andrew EisenDude, you're comparing an opinion piece with someone who was shot to death. Gamasutra and Alexander already were accountable for the opinion piece in question.07/29/2015 - 11:25pm
Mattsworknamekinds of events. nor has it stopped them from being asshats in my opinion, but in there view, they have to hold someone accountible for recent events, so they are doing what they think they must, even if it's based on falsehoods07/29/2015 - 11:22pm
MattsworknameAndrew: It's really a matter of context for the people involved. For example. The "Black lives matter" thing is based on an entirely false account of events in the brown shooting, but that hasnt' stopped it from triyng to hold Polititcians accountable for07/29/2015 - 11:22pm
Andrew EisenWouldn't surprise me. A lot of words' actual meanings escape many people on the internet.07/29/2015 - 11:17pm
 

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