If you can do it, a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) just might give you a prize.
The team has been researching tongue twisters, those seemingly simple words or phrases that when spoken quickly and repeatedly make our brains stumble and our tongues get tangled. The researchers are interested in what tongue-twister errors can tell us about how our brains process speech.
The research – including the phrase that defeated just about everyone in the study – was presented last week at the meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.
Knowing the difficulty a normal brain has with tongue twisters helps scientists understand what happens in the brain “when things go wrong,” MIT psychologist Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel said in a statement.
In fact, tongue twisters are frequently used to detect cognitive decline in older patients. A German study, published in September, found that greater-than-normal difficulties with tongue twisters may indicate mild cognitive dysfunction.
Shattuck-Hufnagel’s team has been trying to figure out why certain types of phrases – even one as simple as “top cop” – are harder to repeat quickly than others. In their study, the “pad kid” phrase proved the most difficult for participants. Some gave up trying to repeat it and “simply stopped talking altogether,” she said.
So, do you think you could say it 10 times? “If anyone can say this [phrase] 10 times quickly,” Shattuck-Hufnagel said, “they get a prize.”
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