The Neuroscience Behind the Words. How We Program Our Minds Everyday


  • Zuzana Hrašková Comenius University Bratislava


My project, as the literature review, wants to investigate a relation and connection between spoken/thought language to the body and mind. I will focus mainly on the linguistic units – words – their emotional charge how they shape and determine our lives, bodies, world around us and our perception of reality.

During processing of negative, positive, and neutral words there were found differences in brain imagery, which refers to the process of how words we use everyday shape our brain from a long-term perspective with priming and neuroplasticity. For example, words we associate a fear and danger with awaken subconsciously our defence brain mechanism in the frontal lobe and if this connection is strengthened over time we learn negative association related to that stimuli which changes our experienes. [1]. This process can be compared to programming – rewiring our minds and the way we experience our lives. Words can basically influence our wellbeing, our self perception and our relations with the outer world. From how encouraging words influence our sport performance, how they impact our musculoskeletal rehabilitation and what is the impact of words to pain processing [2]. Words we use also determine our perception: “When we allow negative words and concepts into our thoughts, we are increasing the activity in our brain’s fear center (the amygdala), and causing stress-producing hormones to flood our system.” [3]. On the other hand, positive charged words can activate areas which are responsible for motivation and dedication, serotonin and dopamine release. “Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.” [3].

The purpose of this project is to offer a literature overview, highlight the potential in mind-body connection research and raise questions and curiosity about psychophysiology. The interdisciplinary approach of linguistics, psychology, neurology and philosophy can open the doors for better understanding how we “program” ourselves every day. I also see great potential for healing mental illnesses, understanding personal identity, cognitive patterns and predicting human behavior with computation, just by understanding the process of pattern creation, autosuggestion and identification with meanings behind the words.


[1] T. Straube, A. Sauer, and W. H. R. Miltner, “Brain activation during direct and indirect processing of positive and negative words,” Behavioural Brain Research, vol. 222, no. 1, pp. 66–72, 2011. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.037

[2] A. Ritter, M. Franz, W. H. Miltner, and T. Weiss, “How words impact on pain,” Brain and Behavior, vol. 9, no. 9, 2019. doi:10.1002/brb3.1377

[3] A. Newberg and M.A. Waldman, Words Can Change Your Brain. 12 Conversation Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflict, and Increase Intimacy, Penguin, 2013.