Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Perception Editorial Notes EEG / MEG Neural Oscillations Neural Phase Papers Perception Publications

New paper out: Hen­ry & Her­rmann, Jour­nal of Neuroscience

Proud to announce that our post­docs Mol­ly Hen­ry and Björn Her­rmann just came out with a review/op piece in the Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science “jour­nal club” sec­tion, where only grad stu­dents or post­docs are allowed to author short review pieces.

A Pre­clud­ing Role of Low-Fre­quen­cy Oscil­la­tions for Audi­to­ry Per­cep­tion in a Con­tin­u­ous Pro­cess­ing Mode

The Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science, 5 Decem­ber 2012, 32(49): 17525–17527; doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.4456–12.2012

Mol­ly and Björn review (and com­ment on) an impor­tant paper by our friends and col­leagues Christoph Kayser and Benedikt Ng in the same jour­nal. Essen­tial­ly, they argue for the dis­tinc­tion of a con­tin­u­ous from an oscil­la­to­ry pro­cess­ing mode in lis­ten­ing, and pro­vide ten­ta­tive expla­na­tions of why some­times miss­es might be more mod­u­lat­ed by neur­al oscil­la­to­ry phase than hits. Con­grats, guys!


  • Hen­ry MJ, Her­rmann B. A pre­clud­ing role of low-fre­quen­cy oscil­la­tions for audi­to­ry per­cep­tion in a con­tin­u­ous pro­cess­ing mode. J Neu­rosci. 2012 Dec 5;32(49):17525–7. PMID: 23223276. [Open with Read]
Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Speech Processing EEG / MEG Media Neural Oscillations Publications Speech

DRa­dio broad­cast­ed three fea­tures on neur­al oscil­la­tions (Hen­ry & Obleser)

Ger­man radio broad­cast­er Deutsch­landra­dio pro­duced three recent reports on neur­al oscil­la­tions and our recent PNAS paper. You can lis­ten to/read (in Ger­man lan­guage) them here:

Next time we’ll post before the broad­cast­ing takes place…


  • Hen­ry MJ, Obleser J. Fre­quen­cy mod­u­la­tion entrains slow neur­al oscil­la­tions and opti­mizes human lis­ten­ing behav­ior. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Dec 4;109(49):20095–100. PMID: 23151506. [Open with Read]
Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Speech Processing EEG / MEG Neural Oscillations Neural Phase Papers Publications Speech

New Paper in PNAS: Hen­ry & Obleser [Updat­ed]

Our new paper on neur­al entrain­ment with spec­tral fluc­tu­a­tions, and its effects on near-thresh­old audi­to­ry per­cep­tion is now online in the “ear­ly edi­tion” of PNAS:

Hen­ry, MJ & Obleser, J (in press):

Fre­quen­cy mod­u­la­tion entrains slow neur­al oscil­la­tions and opti­mizes human lis­ten­ing behavior

Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca (PNAS)

Here is the abstract:

The human abil­i­ty to con­tin­u­ous­ly track dynam­ic envi­ron­men­tal stim­uli, in par­tic­u­lar speech, is pro­posed to prof­it from “entrain­ment” of endoge­nous neur­al oscil­la­tions, which involves phase reor­ga­ni­za­tion such that “opti­mal” phase comes into line with tem­po­ral­ly expect­ed crit­i­cal events, result­ing in improved pro­cess­ing. The cur­rent exper­i­ment goes beyond pre­vi­ous work in this domain by address­ing two thus far unan­swered ques­tions. First, how gen­er­al is neur­al entrain­ment to envi­ron­men­tal rhythms: Can neur­al oscil­la­tions be entrained by tem­po­ral dynam­ics of ongo­ing rhyth­mic stim­uli with­out abrupt onsets? Sec­ond, does neur­al entrain­ment opti­mize per­for­mance of the per­cep­tu­al sys­tem: Does human audi­to­ry per­cep­tion ben­e­fit from neur­al phase reor­ga­ni­za­tion? In a human elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy study, lis­ten­ers detect­ed short gaps dis­trib­uted uni­form­ly with respect to the phase angle of a 3‑Hz fre­quen­cy-mod­u­lat­ed stim­u­lus. Lis­ten­ers’ abil­i­ty to detect gaps in the fre­quen­cy-mod­u­lat­ed sound was not uni­form­ly dis­trib­uted in time, but clus­tered in cer­tain pre­ferred phas­es of the mod­u­la­tion. More­over, the opti­mal stim­u­lus phase was indi­vid­u­al­ly deter­mined by the neur­al delta oscil­la­tion entrained by the stim­u­lus. Final­ly, delta phase pre­dict­ed behav­ior bet­ter than stim­u­lus phase or the event-relat­ed poten­tial after the gap. This study demon­strates behav­ioral ben­e­fits of phase realign­ment in response to fre­quen­cy-mod­u­lat­ed audi­to­ry stim­uli, over­all sug­gest­ing that fre­quen­cy fluc­tu­a­tions in nat­ur­al envi­ron­men­tal input pro­vide a pac­ing sig­nal for endoge­nous neur­al oscil­la­tions, there­by influ­enc­ing per­cep­tu­al processing.

NB: There is also a press release by the Max Planck Soci­ety on the topic.


  • Hen­ry MJ, Obleser J. Fre­quen­cy mod­u­la­tion entrains slow neur­al oscil­la­tions and opti­mizes human lis­ten­ing behav­ior. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Dec 4;109(49):20095–100. PMID: 23151506. [Open with Read]
Auditory Working Memory Degraded Acoustics EEG / MEG Executive Functions Neural Oscillations Noise-Vocoded Speech Papers Publications Speech

New paper out: Obleser et al., The Jour­nal of Neuroscience

Adverse Lis­ten­ing Con­di­tions and Mem­o­ry Load Dri­ve a Com­mon Alpha Oscil­la­to­ry Network

Whether we are engaged in small talk or try­ing to mem­o­rise a tele­phone num­ber — it is our short-term mem­o­ry that ensures we don’t lose track. But what if the very same mem­o­ry gets addi­tion­al­ly taxed because the words to be remem­bered are hard to understand?

Obleser et al., J Neu­rosci 2012: Alpha oscil­la­tions are enhanced both by mem­o­rised dig­its and by the adverse acoustic con­di­tions that these dig­its had been pre­sent­ed in.
Obleser, J., Woest­mann, M., Hell­bernd, N., Wilsch, A. , Maess, B. (2012). Adverse lis­ten­ing con­di­tions and mem­o­ry load dri­ve a com­mon alpha oscil­la­to­ry net­work. Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science. Sep­tem­ber 5, 2012 • 32(36):12376 –12383


  • Obleser J, Wöst­mann M, Hell­bernd N, Wilsch A, Maess B. Adverse lis­ten­ing con­di­tions and mem­o­ry load dri­ve a com­mon α oscil­la­to­ry net­work. J Neu­rosci. 2012 Sep 5;32(36):12376–83. PMID: 22956828. [Open with Read]
Neural Oscillations Papers Publications Speech

New paper out: “Don’t be enslaved by the enve­lope” – Com­ment on Giraud & Poep­pel (2012)

Today appears a com­ment / opin­ion arti­cle, with a tad bit of fresh evi­dence from our lab, that is main­ly a reply to Anne-Lise Giraud and David Poeppel’s recent “per­spec­tive” arti­cle on Neur­al oscil­la­tions in speech.

We loved that arti­cle, obvi­ous­ly, but after the ini­tial excite­ment, a few con­cerns stuck with us. In essence, the prob­lems are (i) how to define theta for the pur­pos­es of analysing speech com­pre­hen­sion process­es, (ii) not to over­ly focus on the speech enve­lope (i.e., not to neglect spec­tral / fine-struc­ture aspects of speech), and (iii) the unsolved chicken–egg prob­lem of how neur­al entrain­ment and speech intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty real­ly relate to each other.

But read for your­self (It’s pleas­ant­ly short!).


  • Obleser J, Her­rmann B, Hen­ry MJ. Neur­al Oscil­la­tions in Speech: Don’t be Enslaved by the Enve­lope. Front Hum Neu­rosci. 2012 Aug 31;6:250. PMID: 22969717. [Open with Read]
EEG / MEG Evoked Activity Linguistics Papers Perception Place of Articulation Features Publications Speech

New paper in press — Scharinger et al., PLOS ONE [Update]

We are hap­py that our paper

A Sparse Neur­al Code for Some Speech Sounds but Not for Others

is sched­uled for pub­li­ca­tion in PLOS ONE on July 16th, 2012.

This is also our first paper in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Alexan­dra Ben­dix­en from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Leipzig.

The research report­ed in this arti­cle pro­vides an exten­sion of the pre­dic­tive cod­ing frame­work onto speech sounds and assumes that audi­to­ry pro­cess­ing uses pre­dic­tions that are not only derived from ongo­ing con­tex­tu­al updates, but also from long-term mem­o­ry rep­re­sen­ta­tions — neur­al codes — of speech sounds. Using the Ger­man min­i­mal pair [lats]/[laks] (bib/salmon) in a pas­sive-odd­ball design, we find the expect­ed Mis­match Neg­a­tiv­i­ty (MMN) asym­me­try that is com­pat­i­ble with a pre­dic­tive cod­ing frame­work, but also with lin­guis­tic under­spec­i­fi­ca­tion theory.


Paper is avail­able here.


  • Scharinger M, Ben­dix­en A, Tru­jil­lo-Bar­reto NJ, Obleser J. A sparse neur­al code for some speech sounds but not for oth­ers. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40953. PMID: 22815876. [Open with Read]
Editorial Notes Neural Oscillations Publications

New Pub­lic Sci­ence Weblog by our Max Planck Institute

I am per­son­al­ly not entire­ly con­vinced whether Weblogs will sur­vive as a tool for com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Notwith­stand­ing, I am sup­port­ing the idea of our Insti­tute togeth­er with Ger­man pub­lic sci­ence mag­a­zine “Spek­trum der Wis­senschaft” to start a new blog, enti­tled “Neu­rocog­ni­tion”. It’s host­ed at and I have the hon­our to serve as one of the staff writ­ers there, let’s see where this will take us.

For a start, I let go and wrote about my fas­ci­na­tion with brain oscil­la­tions. Please pre­tend at least to be sur­prised on this choice of topic!

Auditory Working Memory Degraded Acoustics EEG / MEG Events Executive Functions Neural Oscillations Posters Publications

Fur­ther posters at SFN / Neu­ro­science 2011

In addi­tion to the excit­ing con­so­nan­tal mis­match neg­a­tiv­i­ty work Math­ias and Alexan­dra will be show­ing (TUESDAY AM ses­sion, posters UU10 and UU11), we will have the fol­low­ing posters this year. Come by!

Chris Petkov and I are show­ing our brand new data in the TUESDAY PM ses­sion, poster LL14.

I myself will be pre­sent­ing in the WEDNESDAY AM ses­sion, XX15 – more alpha oscil­la­tions in work­ing mem­o­ry under speech degradation.

Final­ly, I also have the plea­sure to be a co-author on Sarah Jessen’s, who is show­ing très cool mul­ti­modal inte­gra­tion data on voic­es and bod­ies under noisy con­di­tions in the WEDNESDAY PM ses­sion, XX15.