You probably think that you have control over your voice. I mean, sure, the global economy, international pandemics and a hairy back are things beyond your control (don’t ask, don’t tell). But your own voice? Piece of cake. However, recent research by Hafke at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland shows that your brain may rely heavily on unconscious control mechanisms to maintain a steady voice pitch.
Research has shown that we listen to our voices to help control pitch. Any small changes in pitch are automatically corrected. Hafke found that subjects used imperceptible pitch changes to correct voice production errors. They did not report hearing any small changes, but their voices nonetheless made appropriate adjustments to compensate for them.
That’s like if your finger flinched before you knew it was even touching a hot stove.
I could sure use that reflex.
Hafke’s results suggest that we may need to fundamentally change our ideas of how human brains process sounds. Similar to the visual system, the auditory system may contain two separate pathways for encoding a sound: one used for perception and one used for action. If further data corroborate this theory, they would shed light on disorders such as amusia or damage caused by strokes.
Or it may just be an excuse not to think before you speak.
- blog authored by Scott Kramer