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Re: any ideas?

It is certainly the case that pretty restricted damage to left
posterior superior temporal cortex can result in 'conduction aphasia'
where people can understand speech, but cannot repeat it: the
converse can also occur, where people can repeat speech but not
understand it (in transcortical sensory aphasia). This dissociation
between repetition and comprehension has led some of us (Scott and
Johnsrude, TINS 2003; Hickok and Poeppel TICS 2000; Wise et al,
Brain, 2001) to suggest that (and as suggested by the work on human
auditory pathways by Stephanie Clarke) early perceptual processing of
speech might be mediated by (at least) two parallel pathways, one
directed towards lexical semantic processing (a 'what' pathway, from
the monkey literature) and one associated with the sort of
sensori-motor integration necessary for repetition (a 'how' pathway).
There remains some controversy about specific aspects of the anatomy
underpinning this difference, which I'm not going to bore you with
here. However I am intrigued as to how this dissociation, which is
typically discussed as a cortical phenomenon, might relate to a
hearing problem which does not appear to be centrally mediated. It
would be interesting to consider the role of cortical  projections
from MGB (not all of which go to primary auditory cortex).

best wishes


The first part does sound a little like "blindsight", where people can react
at significantly better than chance to items in the 'dead area' in cases of
hemispheric neglect (Milner and Goodale, and others). This has been ascribed
to different pathways, the 'what' and 'how' pathways, where the latter deal
with a great deal of material that never really achieves conscious
Although a lady in Lausanne (Suzanne Clarke, I think -I'm sorry, I don't
have the reference here) has being doing some work to establish evidence for
similarly parallel processing pathways in audition - under the
'what-and-where' banner, I've not heard of a 'deafhearing' equivalent to
blindsight - if such equivalence were established, it would be quite
significant for models of auditory perception! Allowing for the speculation
that such equivalent could exist, then someone reacting to an auditory
stimulus of which they can have no conscious acknowledgement is not so
strange. Unfortunately, I've never heard of blindsight (which in any case is
usually the result of particular insult to brain tissue, isn't it?) being
developed by some training regime or other, to provide a substitute for
'proper' vision.
I'd be interested to hear more on this, from anyone knowledgeable in this
Sophie Scott, Wellcome RCD Fellow, Depts Psychology and Phonetics, UCL, UK.
020 7679 5342