Who's Talking?

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Science  29 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6042, pp. 529-530
DOI: 10.1126/science.1210277

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You pick up your smartphone and hear someone speak. Without visual contact, you immediately try to discern whether the caller is male or female, young or old, happy or sad, mom or a stranger. You want to know who is speaking and what they are saying. How do you derive two distinct impressions from that single auditory event? Voice recognition (the Who) and speech perception (the What) involve primarily the right and left hemisphere of the brain, respectively. But the tidy notion that two neural modules are independently working to decipher Who and What is challenged by Perrachione et al. (1). On page 595 of this issue, the authors propose that the brain regions underpinning Who and What are functionally integrated.