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A Neurocognitive Approach to the Study of Private Speech

  • Dolors Girbau (a1)


The paper presents the current state of the art of research identifying the neurophysiological and neuroanatomical substrates of private speech, both in typical and clinical (or atypical) populations. First, it briefly describes the evolution of private speech research, which goes from classic traditions as the naturalistic and referential paradigms to the neurocognitive approach. An overview of the neurophysiological (e.g., event-related potentials or ERPs) and neuroimaging techniques (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI) is also presented. The next three sections review empirical works about the neurocognitive basis of private speech, across three groups of techniques: ERPs; fMRI/MRI; and other neuroimaging techniques (positron emission tomography [PET], magnetoencephalogram [MEG], and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation [rTMS]). Such neurocognitive research analyzes the neural activity of individuals during a variety of task settings, including spontaneous and instructed overt and inner private speech use, subvocal verbalizations, and silent and overt reading. The fifth section focuses on electrophysiological and neuroimaging studies of private speech in atypical populations, for example: schizophrenia, pure alexia, hearing impairment, blindness, social phobia, alexithymia, Parkinson, and multiple sclerosis. The neurocognitive study of the various forms of private speech appears to be very promising in the understanding of these pathologies. Lastly, the advances and new challenges in the field are discussed.

Este trabajo presenta el estado actual de la investigación que identifica los sustratos neurofisiológicos y neuroanatómicos del lenguaje privado, tanto en poblaciones típicas como en clínicas (o atípicas). Primero describe brevemente la evolución de la investigación del lenguaje privado, que van desde las tradiciones clásicas como los paradigmas naturalistas y referenciales al abordaje neurocognitivo. También se presenta una revisión de las técnicas neurofisiológicas (por ejemplo, potenciales relacionados con eventos o ERPs) y de neuroimagen (por ejemplo, imagen de resonancia magnética funcional o fMRI). Las siguientes tres secciones revisan los trabajos empíricos sobre la base neurocognitiva del lenguaje privado a través de tres grupos de técnicas: ERPs; fMRI/MRI; y otras técnicas de neuroimagen (tomografía de emisión de positrones [PET], magnetoencefalograma [MEG] y la estimulación magnética repetitiva transcraneal [rTMS]). Esta investigación neurocognitiva analiza la actividad neuronal de los individuos durante diversas tareas, incluyendo el uso del lenguaje privado espontáneo y observable bajo instrucciones y el lenguaje privado interno, las verbalizaciones subvocales y la lectura silenciosa y observable. La quinta sección se centra en los estudios electrofisiológicos y de neuroimágenes del lenguaje privado en poblaciones atípicas, por ejemplo, esquizofrenia, alexia pura, hipoacusia, ceguera, fobia social, alexithymia, Parkinson, y esclerosis múltiple. El estudio neurocognitivo de varias formas del lenguaje privado parece muy prometedor para la comprensión de estas patologías. Por último, se comentan los avances y los nuevos retos en el campo.


Corresponding author

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dolors Girbau, Departamento de Psicología Básica, Clínica y Biológica, Universitat de Jaume I, Campus Riu Sec, 12071 Castelló, Spain. E-mail:


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A Neurocognitive Approach to the Study of Private Speech

  • Dolors Girbau (a1)


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