[meta meta cognition: the wired epileptic brain]
"A rare set of high-resolution readouts taken directly from the wired-in brains of epileptics has provided an unprecedented look at how the brain processes language.
Though only a glimpse, it was enough to show that part of the brain’s language center handles multiple tasks, rather than one.
“If the same part of the brain does different things at different times, that’s a thunderously complex level of organization,” said Ned Sahin, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego.
In a study published Thursday in Science, Sahin’s team studied a region known as Broca’s center, named for French anatomist Paul Pierre Broca who observed that two people with damage to a certain spot in the front of their brains had lost the ability to speak, but could still think.
During the several days that three patients at Massachusetts General Hospital were medically wired, Sahin’s team asked them to repeat words verbatim, and translate them to past and present tense.
In the space of a quarter-second, a small part of Broca’s area — the only part read by the electrodes — received each word, put the word in a correct tense, and sent it to the brain’s speech centers.
This tested only one type of verbal cognition, cautioned Sahin, and the focus was unavoidably narrow, but it was enough to show that Broca’s area is involved not only in translating speech, but receiving it. That role was considered specific to part of the brain called Wernicke’s area.
More broadly, the findings may represent a general rule for Broca’s area, and perhaps other brain regions: Each part plays multiple roles, rather than performing a single task (emphasis mine)."
NB: Image by Ned Sahin on the Wired site.