In the age of Twitter and smartphones, about 10,000 Turkish people use as means of communications an ancient whistled language. The researchers that studied the intriguing language said that unlike other methods of communication it activates both hemispheres of the brain.
An overwhelming number of past studies had shown that the left side of the brain is activated when humans communicate on paper or by speech, through words or signs, tonal or atonal. Yet this birdsong-like whistled language is different.
People use it to communicate in the mountains of north-eastern Turkey, where sometimes mobile networks fail to provide coverage. A whistled message can travel up to 3 miles to reach its recipient.
Scientists believe that this type of language activates the right side of the brain because the right hemisphere is responsible with processing music. The finding, however, is at odds with the studies that had shown communications heavily relies on the left side of the brain.
Prof. Onur Güntürkün of the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany and senior researcher of the study of Turkish origins said he suspected that the musicality of the whistled language may activate the right side of the human brain, while the communications function may trigger the left. Yet he had to travel to Turkey to learn whether his theory was correct.
There his team convinced 31 volunteers to take part in some simple experiments. Participants were requested to report what they hear when somebody plays spoken or whistled chunks of words simultaneously into their left and right ears.
Researchers explained that the left hemisphere activates when a sound is perceived with the right year, while the right hemisphere gets active when a sound enters the brain through the left year. So, whenever a volunteer reported a sound to the detriment of another, scientists knew which side of the brain got activated.
When participants heard spoken language, the sounds perceived by the right hemisphere were dominant in 75 % of cases. But when whistles were played both ears were dominant. Thus researchers concluded that whistled languages somehow activated both hemispheres.
Prof. Güntürkün said that the findings challenge another misconception – that the sides of the brain work independently from the rest of the cortex when activated. However, this latest theory began to lose ground in recent years.
Plus, the latest research is consistent with a 2005 research paper showing that locals from the Canary Islands use both sides of the brain to decipher a whistled version of Spanish language.
Image Source: Altalang