I am happy and honoured that one of the leading hearing aid developers and manufacturers, Widex Sivantos Audiology (WSA), has agreed with University of Lübeck to fund 3 more exciting years of research at the Obleser lab! We will be jointly looking at the intricacies of how ageing listeners navigate a noisy world and its communication challenges.
Six years in our lab with the ageing, adapting, listening brain and mind center-stage have come to a successful close. Jonas’ ERC Consolidator grant had been granted during the Auditory Cognition lab’s tenure at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig originally, and it has shaped our start and settling-in at the University of Lübeck ever since 2016.
Jonas: “In total almost 500 sessions of behaviour, EEG and fMRI recorded; more than 160 brave Lübeck folks and their brains followed longitudinally over two years; 25 publications put out; and not least two PhDs finished and five postdoc careers kickstarted — I am very grateful for the help of all these people, my host Institution University of Lübeck and the European Research Council (ERC) having made this all happen. Thank you all.”
All data will be or are already publicly available on OSF, and we will update our dedicated “AUDADAPT” project page once the final report is in.
We are very excited to share that Obleserlab postdoc Sarah Tune has a new paper in Nature Communications. „Neural attentional-filter mechanisms of listening success in middle-aged and older participants“ is our latest and to-date most extensive output of the longitudinal ERC Consolidator project on adaptive listening in ageing individual (AUDADAPT — include link to https://auditorycognition.com/erc-audadapt/).
This co-production with current (Mohsen Alavash and Jonas Obleser) and former (Lorenz Fiedler) Obleserlab members, takes an in-depth and integrative look at how two of the most extensively studied neurobiological attentional-filter implementations, alpha power lateralization and selective neural speech tracking, relate to one another and to listening sucess.
Leveraging our large, representative sample of aging listeners (N=155, 39–80 years), we show that both neural filter implementatins are robustly modulated by attention but operate surprinsingly independent of one another.
In a series of sophisticated single-trial linear models that include variation in neural filter strength within and between individuals, we demonstrate how the preferential neural tracking of attended versus ignored speech but not alpha lateralization boosts listening success.
To learn more, the paper is available here.
We are excited to share that former Obleserlab PhD student Leo Waschke, together with his new (Doug Garrett, Niels Kloosterman) and old (Jonas Obleser) lab has published an in-depth perspective piece in Neuron, with the provocative title “Behavior need neural variability”.
Our article is essentially a long and extensive tribute to the “second moment” of neural activity, in statistical terms, essentially: Variability — be it quantified as variance, entropy, or spectral slope — is the long-neglected twin of averages, and it holds great promise in understanding neural states (how does neural activity differ from one moment to the next?) and traits (how do individuals differ from each other?).
New PhD opportunity: @bjoherrmann (Rotman Research) and @ObleserLab at @UniLuebeck, Germany, have a @dfg_public-funded 3‑year PhD position! (neural dynamics, temporal expectation, ageing). Apply now until July 12! Please RT widely/alert your MSc/RAs. https://t.co/gphGf8Xx4c pic.twitter.com/GneEmTGvaP
— Jonas Obleser (@jonasobleser) June 26, 2020
Congratulations to Obleserlab postdoc Julia Erb for her new paper to appear in eLife, “Temporal selectivity declines in the aging human auditory cortex”.
It’s a trope that older listeners struggle more in comprehending speech (think of Professor Tournesol in the famous Tintin comics!). The neurobiology of why and how ageing and speech comprehension difficulties are linked at all has proven much more elusive, however.
Part of this lack of knowledge is directly rooted in our limited understanding of how the central parts of the hearing brain – auditory cortex, broadly speaking – are organized.
Does auditory cortex of older adults have different tuning properties? That is, do young and older adults differ in the way their auditory subfields represent certain features of sound?
A specific hypothesis following from this, derived from what is known about age-related change in neurobiological and psychological processes in general (the idea of so-called “dedifferentiation”), was that the tuning to certain features would “broaden” and thus lose selectivity in older compared to younger listeners.
More mechanistically, we aimed to not only observe so-called “cross-sectional” (i.e., age-group) differences, but to link a listener’s chronological age as closely as possible to changes in cortical tuning.
Amongst older listeners, we observe that temporal-rate selectivity declines with higher age. In line with senescent neural dedifferentiation more generally, our results highlight decreased selectivity to temporal information as a hallmark of the aging auditory cortex.
This research is generously supported by the ERC Consolidator project AUDADAPT, and data for this study were acquired at the CBBM at University of Lübeck.
How brain areas communicate shapes human communication: The hearing regions in your brain form new alliances as you try to listen at the cocktail party
Obleserlab Postdocs Mohsen Alavash and Sarah Tune rock out an intricate graph-theoretical account of modular reconfigurations in challenging listening situations, and how these predict individuals’ listening success.
Available online now in PNAS! (Also, our uni is currently featuring a German-language press release on it, as well as an English-language version)
During the upcoming meeting of “Psychology and the Brain 2018”, PhD student Leo Waschke will be hosting a symposium on states and traits of neural activity and their functional relevance for perception and ageing. Together with Linda Geerligs (Donders Institute, NL), Marieke Schölvinck (ESI, Frankfurt) and Niels Kloosterman (MPIB, Berlin) he will be addressing fluctuations in brain activity on a host of timescales from milliseconds to minutes. We are looking forward to meeting you in Giessen.