Plenty of wives would insist they don’t need any help to tell when their husband is concentrating on the television instead of their conversation.
But neuroscientists have created a technique that can prove whether your partner is really listening to you or just nodding and making encouraging noises.
In a study led by Trinity College Dublin, researchers strapped electrodes to 19 participants’ scalps to analysed brain activity.
When words with linked meanings, such as ‘cake’ and ‘pie’, appeared together, the tool detected a specific brain signal that suggested the meaning similarity had been registered – and that participants were listening. The signal disappeared when the audio was muffled by background noise.
Lead author Professor Edmund Lalor said that beyond checking whether someone is listening, the technology could help track language development in children and also spot early signs of dementia. The study appears in journal Current Biology.