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Editorial Notes

The group is approach­ing cruis­ing altitude

Pic: Ker­stin Flake

I am glad to report that the lab is in full flight. (From left to right: ) Anna Wilsch, Julia Erb, Dr. Math­ias Scharinger, Dr. Mol­ly Hen­ry, and Antje Strauß have joined forces with me. We are hav­ing a splen­did time find­ing out more about speech, degra­da­tion of it, and the neur­al pro­cess­ing of it all. Stay tuned for great project work com­ing from these bright minds in the years to come.

NB – I hope you don’t mind that we chose the charm­ing back sides of Leipzig rather than our post­mod­ern Insti­tute build­ing as a back­ground. We actu­al­ly do work just 100 meters from this spot. Maybe we should make it our new hang-out spot and bring neu­ro­science to the streets?

Editorial Notes Events

Autumn trav­els

Before our lit­tle lab gets into full throt­tle in late 2010/early 2011 with a great selec­tion of new stu­dents and post­docs join­ing, I will be tour­ing a bit with my most recent data. 

For late Octo­ber, my for­mer co-super­vi­sor Adi­ti Lahiri has kind­ly invit­ed me to give a talk in Oxford.

In Novem­ber, I will be attend­ing the Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy of Lan­guage Con­fer­ence in San Diego and present our α‑band in spec­tral­ly vs. tem­po­ral­ly degrad­ed word com­pre­hen­sion data.

Direct­ly fol­low­ing is the Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science con­fer­ence, in San Diego as well. Come and find us in a Nano-sym­po­sium Jonathan Peelle has kind­ly put together.

It will take place on Wednes­day after­noon (last day), Novem­ber 17, and will fea­ture a great selec­tion of speak­ers from our field.

Editorial Notes Job Offers

The Obleser lab is mate­ri­al­is­ing: We’re hiring!

Spread the news: We are hir­ing for 2011.

The Max-Planck-Insti­tute for Human Cog­ni­tive and Brain Sci­ences (MPICBS) in Leipzig and its new­ly estab­lished Max Planck Research Group on “Audi­to­ry Cog­ni­tion”, led by Jonas Obleser, are now offering

Post­doc and PhD positions

for up to 3 years, prefer­ably start­ing by Jan­u­ary 2011.

Post­doc appli­cants: Suc­cess­ful can­di­dates will have a PhD in cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science, psy­chol­o­gy, or nat­ur­al sci­ences. Pri­or expe­ri­ence with either fMRI or EEG/MEG meth­ods is expect­ed, and an inter­est in fur­ther apply­ing and com­bin­ing both domains in their research is high­ly desir­able. The suc­cess­ful can­di­date will share our enthu­si­asm in prob­lems of hear­ing and lis­ten­ing com­pre­hen­sion, and ide­al­ly has already demon­strat­ed this by con­tribut­ing to the field, although researchers with a back­ground in visu­al or oth­er neu­ro­science are of course also encour­aged to apply. He or she should have a sol­id meth­ods back­ground; hands-on expe­ri­ence in prob­lems of data and sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis, and should be will­ing to co-super­vise the PhD and Mas­ter stu­dents in the group. The posi­tion offered does not include any teach­ing obligations.

PhD appli­cants: The can­di­dates must have a mas­ter degree (or equiv­a­lent) in psy­chol­o­gy, cog­ni­tive sci­ences, neu­ro­science, med­i­cine, or a relat­ed field. Pro­fi­cien­cy in oral and writ­ten Eng­lish is nec­es­sary. PhD stu­dents will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to par­tic­i­pate in the cur­ricu­lum of the Inter­na­tion­al Max-Planck Research School.

Start­ing date for all posi­tions is flex­i­ble. Salary is depen­dent on expe­ri­ence and based on MPI stipends or equiv­a­lent salary accord­ing to Ger­man Pub­lic ser­vice regulations.

The research will be con­duct­ed at the MPICBS in Leipzig, Ger­many, an inter­na­tion­al­ly lead­ing cen­tre for cog­ni­tive and imag­ing neu­ro­science equipped with a 7.0 T MRI scan­ner, three 3.0 T MRI scan­ners, a 306 chan­nels MEG sys­tem, a TMS sys­tem and sev­er­al EEG suites. All facil­i­ties are sup­port­ed by expe­ri­enced IT and physics staff. Our insti­tute (just 190 km, or 70 min­utes by train, south of Berlin) offers a very inter­na­tion­al envi­ron­ment, with Eng­lish being the lan­guage spo­ken in the lab­o­ra­to­ry. It offers a friend­ly and gen­er­ous envi­ron­ment of researchers with diverse back­grounds and with an excel­lent infrastructure.

In order to increase the pro­por­tion of female staff mem­bers, appli­ca­tions from female sci­en­tists are par­tic­u­lar­ly encour­aged. Pref­er­ence will be giv­en to dis­abled per­sons with the same qualification.

Appli­ca­tions should be kind­ly sent to per­son­al [at] cbs.mpg.de using the code “PD 2÷2010” for Post­doc or ”D5/2010” for PhD appli­ca­tions in the sub­ject. Please send your email below as a sin­gle, appro­pri­ate­ly named pdf attach­ment and should enclose a cov­er let­ter (max. 2 pages) that also spec­i­fies your future research inter­ests; a CV; up to three rep­re­sen­ta­tive reprints; and con­tact details of 2 per­son­al ref­er­ences. This call remains open until the posi­tions are filled.

For fur­ther details please con­tact Dr Jonas Obleser, Max Planck Insti­tute for Human Cog­ni­tive and Brain Sci­ences, Leipzig, Ger­many, obleser [at] cbs [·] mpg [·] de

Auditory Neuroscience Degraded Acoustics Editorial Notes Events fMRI Linguistics Posters Publications

Vis­it us at CNS

UPDATE — The Vol­cano ash that Island is kind­ly sup­ply­ing might pre­vent us from get­ting to Mon­tréal. Let’s see whether we make it until the poster ses­sion starts on Sun­day. But I am slight­ly pes­simistic on that.


I am cur­rent­ly quite busy with fin­ish­ing off loads of old data and prepar­ing new adven­tures in audi­to­ry neu­ro­science. Stay tuned for more!

Mean­while, if you have a few-hours stop-over in Mon­tréal, Cana­da next week: Why don’t you come and find us at the Annu­al Meet­ing of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Soci­ety.

I will present a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort with old Kon­stanz acquain­tance Dr. Nathan Weisz on brain oscil­la­to­ry mea­sures in degrad­ed speech—a field I feel very strong­ly about cur­rent­ly and which will sure­ly keep me busy for years to come:

Poster D 53 — Spec­tral fea­tures of speech dri­ve the induced EEG brain response: Para­met­ric changes in Alpha- and Theta-band power

Also, our stu­dent Lars Mey­er will present a neat fMRI study we recent­ly ran on real­ly nasty (yet per­fect­ly legal) Ger­man syn­tax and how the brain deals with it under as-nasty (poor, that is) acoustics:

Poster I31When Com­plex Gram­mar Must Pass the Bot­tle­neck of Degrad­ed Acoustics: an fMRI Study.

See you in Montréal!

Auditory Neuroscience Degraded Acoustics Editorial Notes fMRI Linguistics Papers Publications Speech

New arti­cles

May I humbly point you to three new arti­cles I had the hon­our to be involved in recently.

First­ly, Chris Petkov, Nikos Logo­thetis and I have put togeth­er a very broad overview over what we think is the cur­rent take on pro­cess­ing streams of voice, speech and, more gen­er­al­ly, vocal­i­sa­tion input in pri­mates. It appears in THE NEUROSCIENTIST and is aimed at (sic) neu­ro­sci­en­tists who are not in the lan­guage and audi­tion field on an every­day basis. It goes back all the way to Wer­nicke and also owes a lot to the hard work on func­tion­al and anatom­i­cal path­ways in the pri­mate brain by peo­ple like Jon Kaas, Troy Hack­ett, Josef Rauscheck­er, or Jef­frey Schmahmann.

Sec­ond­ly, Angela Friederi­ci, Son­ja A. Kotz, Sophie Scott and myself have a new arti­cle in press in HUMAN BRAIN MAPPING where we have tried and dis­en­tan­gled the gram­mat­i­cal vio­la­tion effects in speech that Angela had observed ear­li­er in the ante­ri­or supe­ri­or tem­po­ral gyrus and the effects of speech intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty Sophie had clear­ly pin­point­ed in the sul­cus just below. When com­bin­ing these two manip­u­la­tions into one exper­i­men­tal frame­work, the results turned out sur­pris­ing­ly clear-cut! Also, an impor­tant find­ing on the side: While the acti­va­tions we observed are of course bilat­er­al, any kind of true inter­ac­tion of gram­mar and intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty were locat­ed in the left hemi­sphere (both in infe­ri­or frontal and in supe­ri­or tem­po­ral areas). Watch out here for the upcom­ing pre-print.

Final­ly, recent data by Son­ja Kotz and I have some­what scru­ti­nised the way I see the the inter­play of the ante­ri­or and pos­te­ri­or STS, as well as the IFG and, impor­tant­ly, the left angu­lar gyrus (see the fig­ure below show­ing the response behav­iour of the left angu­lar gyrus over var­i­ous lev­els of degra­da­tion as well as seman­tic expectan­cy, with pooled data from the cur­rent as well as a pre­vi­ous study in J Neu­rosci by Obleser et al., 2007). These data, on a fine-tuned cloze-prob­a­bil­i­ty manip­u­la­tion to sen­tences of vary­ing degra­da­tion are avail­able now in CEREBRAL CORTEX. Thanks for you inter­est, and let me know what you think.



  • Petkov CI, Logo­thetis NK, Obleser J. Where are the human speech and voice regions, and do oth­er ani­mals have any­thing like them? Neu­ro­sci­en­tist. 2009 Oct;15(5):419–29. PMID: 19516047. [Open with Read]
  • Friederi­ci AD, Kotz SA, Scott SK, Obleser J. Dis­en­tan­gling syn­tax and intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty in audi­to­ry lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion. Hum Brain Mapp. 2010 Mar;31(3):448–57. PMID: 19718654. [Open with Read]
  • Obleser J, Kotz SA. Expectan­cy con­straints in degrad­ed speech mod­u­late the lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion net­work. Cereb Cor­tex. 2010 Mar;20(3):633–40. PMID: 19561061. [Open with Read]
Auditory Neuroscience Clinical relevance Editorial Notes Speech

Why will a per­son with a right-hemi­spher­ic stroke not become aphasic…

… if spec­tral (fine-fre­quen­cy) details of the speech sig­nal are “pre­dom­i­nant­ly tracked in the right audi­to­ry cor­tex”, Prof. Sophie Scott just right­ly asked after my talk fif­teen min­utes ago at SfN.

I am not sure what Robert Zatorre and David Poep­pel would answer, but I think that this is not an easy ques­tion and it can sure­ly not be answered based on the first exper­i­ment on spec­tral vs. tem­po­ral detail in speech that we just published. 

I would argue that it is open to thor­ough test­ing how patients with left or right tem­po­ral lobe lesions would cope with removed spec­tral and tem­po­ral detail, respectively.

I am glad that Sophie Scott some­what sug­gest­ed this, as I have been main­tain­ing for years the opin­ion that in lesioned patients, apha­sic or not, there is much to learn on fine-grad­ed, basic audi­to­ry processing—it is high­ly under­stand­able that, from a clin­i­cal point of view, patients have much more severe prob­lems in com­mu­ni­ca­tion that deserve our clin­i­cal atten­tion. Nev­er­the­less, thor­ough (behav­iour­al) test­ing of the audi­to­ry speech per­cep­tion in vol­un­teer­ing patients is a worth­while and time­ly effort.

Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Speech Processing Degraded Acoustics Events fMRI Noise-Vocoded Speech Papers Publications

Talk at the Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science Meet­ing, Wash­ing­ton, DC on Wednesday

If you hap­pen to be at SfN this week, you might want to check out my short pre­sen­ta­tion on a recent study [1] we did: What do spec­tral (fre­quen­cy-domain) and tem­po­ral (time-domain) fea­tures real­ly con­tribute to speech com­pre­hen­sion process­es in the tem­po­ral lobes?

It is in the Audi­to­ry Cor­tex Ses­sion (710), tak­ing place in Room 145B. My talk is sched­uled for 0945 am.

[1] Obleser, J., Eis­ner, F., Kotz, S.A. (2008) Bilat­er­al speech com­pre­hen­sion reflects dif­fer­en­tial sen­si­tiv­i­ty to spec­tral and tem­po­ral fea­tures. Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science, 28(32):8116–8124.


  • Obleser J, Eis­ner F, Kotz SA. Bilat­er­al speech com­pre­hen­sion reflects dif­fer­en­tial sen­si­tiv­i­ty to spec­tral and tem­po­ral fea­tures. J Neu­rosci. 2008 Aug 6;28(32):8116–23. PMID: 18685036. [Open with Read]
Editorial Notes

Kick-Off: Wel­come to the new Obleser lab weblog

Wel­come to this col­lec­tion of news, facts and mis­cel­lanea from the Jonas Obleser “Cogn­tive Neu­ro­science of Speech” head­quar­ters. Cur­rent­ly, these head­quar­ters are sit­u­at­ed with­in the fan­tas­tic sci­en­tif­ic facil­i­ties that the Max Planck Insti­tute for Human Cog­ni­tive and Brain Sci­ences Leipzig and Prof. Dr. Angela Friederi­ci provide.

Our work focus­es on how the human brain analy­ses, (de–)codes and repairs incom­ing speech sig­nals. Our stud­ies are firm­ly root­ed in audi­to­ry neu­ro­science, yet also incor­po­rate par­a­digms and research ques­tions that are more lin­guis­tic or psy­cho­log­i­cal at times—in order to grasp a more com­pre­hen­sive under­stand­ing of the human brain’s amaz­ing fac­ul­ty to per­ceive and com­pre­hend speech.

We use main­ly func­tion­al MRI to study the brain lis­ten­ing to (often degrad­ed) speech, but EEG, MEG and behav­iour­al stud­ies are as well part of the arsenal.

Thanks for drop­ping by, and stay tuned.