Mindscapes: First man to hear people before they speak

10:49 04 July 2013 by Helen Thomson



Mindscapes is our new column on brain science with a difference: we meet people who live with the world's most mysterious neurological conditions

Name: PH
Condition: Badly dubbed sight and sound

"I told my daughter her living room TV was out of sync. Then I noticed the kitchen telly was also dubbed badly. Suddenly I noticed that her voice was out of sync too. It wasn't the TV, it was me."
Ever watched an old movie, only for the sound to go out of sync with the action? Now imagine every voice you hear sounds similarly off-kilter – even your own. That's the world PH lives in. Soon after surgery for a heart problem, he began to notice that something wasn't quite right.
"I was staying with my daughter and they like to have the television on in their house. I turned to my daughter and said 'you ought to get a decent telly, one where the sound and programme are synchronised'. I gave a little chuckle. But they said 'there's nothing wrong with the TV'."
Puzzled, he went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. "They've got another telly up on the wall and it was the same. I went into the lounge and I said to her 'hey you've got two TVs that need sorting!'."
That was when he started to notice that his daughter's speech was out of time with her lip movements too. "It wasn't the TV, it was me. It was happening in real life."
PH is the first confirmed case of someone who hears people speak before registering the movement of their lips. His situation is giving unique insights into how our brains unify what we hear and see.
It's unclear why PH's problem started when it did – but it may have had something to do with having acute pericarditis, inflammation of the sac around the heart, or the surgery he had to treat it.
Brain scans after the timing problems appeared showed two lesions in areas thought to play a role in hearing, timing and movement. "Where these came from is anyone's guess," says PH. "They may have been there all my life or as a result of being in intensive care."
Read more at New Scientist 

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