Audi­to­ry Cog­ni­tion

Back­ground

Audi­tion pos­es a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge to cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science:
First, the “bot­tom-up” process­es of acousti­cal­ly decod­ing and neu­ral­ly encod­ing the audi­to­ry sig­nal along the cen­tral audi­to­ry path­ways are not well under­stood.
Sec­ond, humans cope sur­pris­ing­ly well with var­i­ous sorts of occlu­sions, dele­tions, and degra­da­tions in their audi­to­ry input—in phone lines and at noisy par­ties, in chron­ic hear­ing dam­age, or, most dras­ti­cal­ly, when liv­ing with a cochlear implant.

Our group is inter­est­ed in the fol­low­ing main ques­tions:

How does the human brain analyse, cat­e­gorise, and inter­pret mean­ing­ful sounds such as speech, par­tic­u­lar­ly under sub­stan­tial degra­da­tion?

How do con­tex­tu­al cues facil­i­tate this process: Seman­tic con­text, and also sim­ple tem­po­ral or spec­tral reg­u­lar­i­ties of sound can shape the neur­al pro­cess­ing as well as facil­i­tate the inte­gra­tion of infor­ma­tion.

How can cog­ni­tive mech­a­nisms effort­ful­ly com­pen­sate for degrad­ed sound: Exec­u­tive func­tions like work­ing mem­o­ry and cog­ni­tive con­trol clear­ly sup­port suc­cess­ful cop­ing with degra­da­tion; their neur­al inter­fac­ing with audi­to­ry process­es is unclear, how­ev­er, and of par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance to our work.

These key ques­tions touch on speech and hear­ing, psy­chol­o­gy and neu­ro­science alike. We pur­sue them using lis­ten­ing and learn­ing exper­i­ments and var­i­ous meth­ods of brain imag­ing.

Our research

First, we ask which brain areas with­in the audi­to­ry cor­tex, and beyond, con­tribute crit­i­cal­ly to the emer­gence of mean­ing­ful audi­to­ry and speech per­cepts, and how do they inter­act? This is inves­ti­gat­ed main­ly using fMRI .

Sec­ond, we study the oscil­la­to­ry brain dynam­ics using M/EEG to infer brain states that pre­cede and accom­pa­ny suc­cess­ful speech com­pre­hen­sion. In short, what are good indi­ca­tors of facil­i­ta­tion and com­pen­sa­tion in the time–frequency domain?

Third, we aim to iso­late indi­vid­ual mark­ers of audi­to­ry skills, cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty, and brain struc­ture that can help us pre­dict the extent to which lis­ten­ers will be able to cope with adverse lis­ten­ing sit­u­a­tions.

Answers to these ques­tions will fur­ther our knowl­edge on the lis­ten­ing brain as well as on the human fac­ul­ty of speech com­pre­hen­sion. They will also even­tu­al­ly be use­ful in devel­op­ing new approach­es to the treat­ment of hear­ing dis­or­ders.