Revising the Description of Speech with the Three Structure Model. Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 11 (Updated)


A Three Structure Model of Neural Activity in Relation to Consciousness and Language

In a previous post I suggested how speech might be accounted for by the three structure model. In retrospect I think there is some modification needed and I propose that speech has three components as per the diagram below.


Speech and the Three Structure Model

Unfortunately it has got a little complicated and the arrows cross each other in the diagram. Nevertheless this reflects the complexity of the interaction between mind and brain. I will explain the three divisions of speech in the three structure model.

With automatic speech, the neural activity takes place in the cranial nerves. At this stage all of the decisions about speech have been made and it has now became a matter of activating the muscle groups in a predetermined manner.

With sensory speech feedback, we become aware of the sound of our own voice as we are speaking as well as the other sensory feedback such as the movement of the jaw and the contact of the tongue with the palate. While it is more likely that this will impact on our consciousness it is also possible for it to act on us unconsciously. For example, if prose is well learnt and it is being repetitively rehearsed it may be possible to divert conscious activity to other matters.

Speech modifiers describes the decisions that are made about how we translate language into speech. Rather than simply speaking our ‘language script’ in a standardised manner, we are able to modify the tone, rate, rhythm and volume of speech. We do this in order to engage with the audience and also to communicate the emotional meaning of our speech. Again this can be conscious or unconscious.

componentsofspeechin3structuremodelRelationship Between the Three Components of Speech

The relationship is shown in the above diagram.

The description of speech in the three structure model can be better understood by considering the video below.

Vocalisation in a Video by Dr J.P.Thomas

In the above video, the singer is demonstrating scales crescendo/decrescendo whilst stroboscopy reveals the corresponding changes in the larynx. The Larynx is a complex piece of anatomical apparatus featuring intrinsic and extrinsic muscles as well as vocal cords. The vocal cords vibrate up to 100 times per second.

As we view the clip the three components of speech are apparent after further reflection (although strictly speaking this is not speech it demonstrates the principles discussed above).

Firstly the automatic component of vocalisation is apparent. If we volitionally attempted to vibrate the vocal cords 100 times per second by focusing on the vocal cords themselves we would no doubt fail. Seeing the vocal cords might give us the opportunity for finer volitional control but it is unlikely given the rate at which they are vibrating with vocalisation. Additionally as we do not see our own vocal cords when we are speaking, our method of organising their movement must be entirely dependent on auditory feedback. We leave the finer details of achieving these movements to our cranial nerves and instead focus our conscious attention on the end result.

This brings us onto the second component of speech which is sensory feedback. The singer demonstrates a crescendo and decrescendo. Although this may be well rehearsed it is most likely that this technique requires close attention to the vocalisations produced up until that point. This feedback can be used to correct any deviation from the anticipated vocalisation.

Finally there is the crescendo and descrescendo. This is analogous to the speech modifiers which communicate the emotional content of our speech.

Speech remains outside of the three structure model. Nevertheless it is sufficiently complex to be usefully described in relation to the three structure model as it provides us with an intuitively understandable phenomenon that can be explained by this relatively abstract model.

Appendix – Related Resources on the TAWOP Site

In Support of Method

A Review of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions

Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 1

Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 2

Integration in Neuroscience:A Core Problem – Part 3

Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 4: A Language for Mind and Brain?

Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 5: A Three Structure Model

Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 6: Reflection on the Three Structure Model

Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 7: The Unconscious in the Three Structure Model

Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 8:

Integration in Neuroscience: A Core Problem – Part 9:

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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