What happens in our brain when we start talking to ourselves?

This is one of those questions that everyone asks, but no one passes on to others because it refers to our own sense of shame.

What am I doing talking to myself? We can be made to think when a conversation starts in our head and sometimes it seems that more than two people are involved, when it is only you and yourself. And this is not only normal or common, but it characterizes us as a species. So come on, get rid of your petty prejudices and say it out loud: I can't stop talking to myself.

While it is true, as several researches have shown, that there are people whose inner voice remains quite silent, while others are rather talkative, it is generally an exercise of the mind related to self-perception, awareness and memory. How does this inner dialogue take place?

To begin with, experts believe that what is really a monologue (because we are the only ones intervening, even though we feel we are encountering different voices) is a simulation of open speech. In other words, there is not much difference between verbalizing and not verbalizing, reports an article in Live Science.

When we stop talking out loud

According to Hélène Loevenbruck, senior researcher in neurolinguistics and head of the language team at the CNRS laboratory of psychology and neurocognition, it turns out that brain processes take place in the same way when we think words and when we speak out loud.

This means that the brain regions activated during inner speech turn out to be very similar to those activated during overt or real speech. These include the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere and the parietal lobe, which process external stimuli.

Thus, during childhood, we behave like sponges, constantly absorbing new information from all angles. I'm sure you've heard the phrase more than once. According to Loevenbruck, children who play alone often talk aloud with toys (which is not new either). But from age 5 to 7, this verbalization turns inward.

The game of the adults

The way we have built the perimeter of social language leads us to repress these daily gestures when we are young. Because talking to oneself is frowned upon, an act loaded with considerations on the ancient idea of madness that still conditions us.

But deep down, our brains don't care about any prejudice, and even if it's hidden, it looks for ways to keep engaging in conversations of all kinds. And the paradox is that it becomes a kind of adult game: during this internal discussion, you play two roles: yourself and the person you are discussing with.

When you play your own role, the auditory centers on the left side of your brain are activated, Loevenbruck points out. In contrast, when you internally switch roles to play the person with whom you are talking, “there is a kind of shift of activation from the brain region to the right hemisphere,” in equivalent areas such as the parietal lobe and frontal lobe.

The challenge of non-deliberate monologues

Seeing the situation you are imagining from a point of view other than your own, even if it is a point of view you are developing yourself in your head, changes the regions of the brain that are involved in the process.

Previous studies have already shown that the brain shows similar activity with inner speech as with verbalized speech through MRI observations.

As the researcher explains, not all inner monologues are deliberate. Sometimes words or phrases come to mind, unprovoked. In any case, listen to them.