Your Brain & Podcasts

This podcast audio served as the source for the blog post “Your Brain On Podcasts.”

The transcript was rewritten to produce the blog post, which is the cornerstone of the Shortcut Content system.

Shayla: Welcome to the Shortcut Content podcast. I am talking today with Dave Young. Dave, what does it mean when you say “your brain on podcasts?”

Dave: Your brain on podcasts. Some people may not remember the old ad campaign, this is in the Reagan era, and it was an ad that said “this is your brain on drugs,” and they cracked an egg into a frying pan to give you the impression that the minute you do drugs of any kind, you’re frying your brain. So I guess my topic of your brain on podcasts is sort of related to that, but I’m basing it on science.

When you’re listening to audio, the brain is engaged, and this has been proven with Magnetoencephalography, basically looking at your brain and showing heat maps of what’s going on in your brain when you’re doing certain things. And one of the interesting things they found out is that when you’re actively engaged with listening, with hearing a story, some different parts of your brain are engaged than if you’re just watching video and it’s really interesting to think about this. So when you’re just looking at an image and there isn’t an audio component to it, when you look at a Magnetoencephalography picture, you’ll see the visual cortex light up, when you’re looking at something and that’s what you’d expect. You’d expect the visual cortex and the visual association area to be engaged, but when you’re listening to something, when you’re listening to someone tell a story, you’re listening to a radio ad, you’re listening to a podcast, the visual association area is still engaged, and that’s because you’re creating mental images with the sounds that you’re hearing. So if you’re hearing a story about a giraffe, it’s the visual association area of your brain that conjures up a stored image of a long necked brown and white checked animal from Africa and in the sensory association area, there might even be some sounds or some smells that are involved in that mental image.

The really interesting thing though is that the activation levels in the brain continue from the visual association area, which is clear in the back of the left hemisphere of the brain. Through the auditory association area is where we store our memories of what sounds mean and this is the language center of the brain. This is the one part of the brain that humans are better at doing than any other animal on the planet, and that’s assigning meaning to sounds. That’s why we have language. So when we say the word giraffe, the first thing that happens is the auditory cortex picks that up and then it looks up the sound that that means in the auditory association area, that’s where we store what a word means and then it kicks it back into that visual association area and looks up what a picture of it is, and it all goes to the sensory association area where it becomes a mental image. But the interesting thing about reading, so if I say the word giraffe or if I hear the word giraffe, it’s quicker to create that mental image. But if I read the word giraffe, that’s a different process.

So when I read the word giraffe, there is no stored image of the word giraffe printed out in the visual association area. What happens first is the visual association area says, “hey, auditory association area, what is this?” So written words have no meaning until they’ve been passed through the auditory association area where they become a neural representation of sound. So when I read the word giraffe, it doesn’t have any meaning until I hear the word the giraffe in my head, as the result of having read that word.

We can listen and process information much faster than we can read and process the same information. That’s why you can listen to an audiobook at one and a half times its speed and not lose anything. But the bottom line is because of the way humans developed, our brains are best at assigning meaning to sounds. Before we had written language, we were passing our history and our stories to each other in the form of verbal narrative. We would have one person that sat down on a hillside and people would gather around and listen to stories, learn their own history that way. And so when we’re communicating via podcast, we’re going back to our roots. We’re communicating in a way that the human operating system is actually designed to interpret and understand. The power of podcasting is that it uses the natural human operating system and at Shortcut Content, that’s our source material. Our source material is always our client telling a story either via video, like what I’m doing right now and we’re also recording the audio, our basic service starts with a podcast. It starts with an interview, a conversation, a story-telling session that gets turned into other forms of content. But it’s easiest to do because it’s spoken word and that’s what we’re naturally more inclined to do in a communication style.

Shayla: So if you have questions about that or anything we’ve talked about today you can reach out to Dave and his team at