Could El Hierro’s whistling language help brain patients?
The old whistling language of El Hierro could be a therapy for patients with brain disease.
Two researchers from the University of Ruhr, Bochum (Germany) have been on the island to study the intricacies of “Silbo”. The scientists have the collaboration of the Cabildo.
Jonathan Schuchert and Alina Shamayeva are carrying out a thesis of psychology and cognitive neuroscience in relation to brain activity and the whistled language.
They hope to gain a deeper understanding of the processes needed to use a whistled language. Directly recording brain activity, the objective is to examine whether the right hemisphere has a more important role in the understanding of Silbo.
Their biggest hope is that Silbo could be part of a new therapy for patients with communication problems who have damaged the left hemisphere as a result of stroke or accident but the right side still works.
It was not until 2005 that the first neuroscientific study of Silbo was published, showing that the same regions are activated in the brain when listening to the whistle as when hearing spoken Spanish.
Ten years later, Professor Güntürkün, from the University of the Ruhr, published his work on the Turkish whistle, pointing out that the whistled language, unlike the spoken language, is not lateralised in the left hemisphere, that is, both hemispheres work “almost at the same level”. This university is now conducting the first investigation of a whistled language with electroencephalography (EEG), a method that allows electrical changes to be recorded in brain activity.
Neuroscience is interested in whistled language as a means of communication because it seems that brain processing is different from the spoken language.