Chances are, you are reading this first sentence and hearing your own voice talking in your head. According to a new study,
internal speech makes use of a system that is mostly employed for processing external speech, which is why we can \”hear\” our inner voice. The comes from the Department of Linguistics at the University of British Columbia, and is led by researcher Mark Scott, who analyzed a brain signal known as \”corollary discharge\” – a signal that separates sensory experiences we produce ourselves from experiences that are external. This signal helps explain why we are unable to tickle ourselves: it predicts our own movements and omits the sensation of feeling ticklish. According to the study, this prediction usually filters out self-made sounds so we don\’t hear them externally, but rather internally. The corollary discharge therefore prevents the sensory confusion that would otherwise arise. Until now, the phenomenon of internal speech has been mostly unexamined. But through two experiments, Scott saw evidence that corollary discharge is an important component of our internal speech experiences: We spend a lot of time speaking and that can swamp our auditory system, making it difficult for us to hear other sounds when we are speaking. By attenuating the impact our own voice has on our hearing – using the \’corollary discharge\’ prediction – our hearing can remain sensitive to other sounds. \” Scott theorized that copies of our internal voices produced by the predictive brain signal can be created even when there is no external sound.
In effect, our inner voices are the result of our brain internally predicting our own voice\’s sound. If his theory was true, Scott knew that when external sensory information matched the internal copy our brains produced, that external information would be edited out. The results of his experiment confirmed his hypothesis. When participants said certain syllables just in their heads – such as \”al\” or \”ar\” sounds – that matched an external sound, the impact of that external sound was greatly minimized. However, when the internal syllable did not match the external sound, their own perception of both sounds did not diminish. For his main experiment, Scott used 24 male participants. He chose subjects of the same sex so their voices would match the gender of the voice that produced the external sounds. During the experiment, there were three conditions: Hearing Matching Contrasting – participants imagined a different sound than what they were hearing (for example, if they heard \”ar,\” they imagined \”al\”). The overall results show that inner speech weakens the impact of external sounds when the two are the same. The findings provide strong evidence that a system involved in processing external speech also works on internal speech, which may help with mental conditions.
Scott notes: \”This work is important because this theory of internal speech is closely related to theories of the auditory hallucinations associated with. \” Often represented in cartoons as the little devils or angels that sit upon our shoulders, our arenБt just our conscience speaking to us. Also known as our inner voice or internal speech, this stream of verbal consciousness can take almost any form: from running through a list of things you need to do today, to playing out past conversations, or imagining new ones. According to, a psychologist with Durham University in the UK, understanding where inner monologues come from and how they work in healthy people could help us treat those who hear Б such as people with schizophrenia or other serious mental disorders. Mosely is involved with, a project that aims to better understand why some people hear voices in the absence of any external stimuli Б also known as auditory verbal hallucinations. Psychologists have a long history when it comes to studying the inner voice. Russian psychologist suggested back in the 1930s that our internal monologue was tied to our ability to speak aloud. And the technique of, which measures muscle movement, shows that our larynx is actually active during inner speech. But itБs more recent research thatБs getting us closer to understanding where the internal monologue really comes from,. Neuroimaging testing performed in the 1990s demonstrated that parts of – the region of the brain responsible for speech – are also active when our inner voice is speaking to us. , auditory verbal hallucinations Бmight simply be a form of inner speech that has not been recognised as self-producedБ.
Evidence to support this view is that the same regions of the brain that are active during inner speech, such as BrocaБs area, are also active during auditory hallucinations. Interestingly, a found that brain activity was different when people heard auditory hallucinations from when they tried to imagine the same voices. The researchers discovered that during auditory hallucinations, less activity occurred in the supplementary motor area of the brain, which is tied to self-awareness. that this lower level of neural activity in the supplementary motor area could prevent Бthe sense of ownership of oneБs own verbal imageryБ. Not that the search for where our inner voice originates should come at the expense of all other psychological research and treatments for people who experience auditory hallucinations, Moseley points out. БWe also need to understand what the experience is like, how we can help people who are distressed by it, and when thereБs a need for psychiatric care,Б. БBut to do any of this, we first need to know what typical inner speech is like, and the underlying neuroscience is part of that understanding. Б