Categories
Attention Auditory Neuroscience Neural Oscillations Papers Psychology Uncategorized

New paper in press in the Jour­nal of Neuroscience

Wöst­mann, Alavash and Obleser demon­strate that alpha oscil­la­tions in the human brain imple­ment dis­trac­tor sup­pres­sion inde­pen­dent of tar­get selection.

In the­o­ry, the abil­i­ty to selec­tive­ly focus on rel­e­vant objects in our envi­ron­ment bases on selec­tion of tar­gets and sup­pres­sion of dis­trac­tion. As it is unclear whether tar­get selec­tion and dis­trac­tor sup­pres­sion are inde­pen­dent, we designed an Elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy (EEG) study to direct­ly con­trast these two processes.

Par­tic­i­pants per­formed a pitch dis­crim­i­na­tion task on a tone sequence pre­sent­ed at one loud­speak­er loca­tion while a dis­tract­ing tone sequence was pre­sent­ed at anoth­er loca­tion. When the dis­trac­tor was fixed in the front, atten­tion to upcom­ing tar­gets on the left ver­sus right side induced hemi­spher­ic lat­er­al­i­sa­tion of alpha pow­er with rel­a­tive­ly high­er pow­er ipsi- ver­sus con­tralat­er­al to the side of attention.

Crit­i­cal­ly, when the tar­get was fixed in front, sup­pres­sion of upcom­ing dis­trac­tors reversed the pat­tern of alpha lat­er­al­i­sa­tion, that is, alpha pow­er increased con­tralat­er­al to the dis­trac­tor and decreased ipsi­lat­er­al­ly. Since the two lat­er­al­ized alpha respons­es were uncor­re­lat­ed across par­tic­i­pants, they can be con­sid­ered large­ly inde­pen­dent cog­ni­tive mechanisms.

This was fur­ther sup­port­ed by the fact that alpha lat­er­al­i­sa­tion in response to dis­trac­tor sup­pres­sion orig­i­nat­ed in more ante­ri­or, frontal cor­ti­cal regions com­pared with tar­get selec­tion (see figure).

The paper is also avail­able as preprint here.

 

Categories
Attention Auditory Cortex Auditory Speech Processing Papers Psychology Publications Speech

New paper in press in the Jour­nal of Cog­ni­tive Neuroscience

Wöst­mann, Schmitt and Obleser demon­strate that clos­ing the eyes enhances the atten­tion­al mod­u­la­tion of neur­al alpha pow­er but does not affect behav­iour­al per­for­mance in two lis­ten­ing tasks

Does clos­ing the eyes enhance our abil­i­ty to lis­ten atten­tive­ly? In fact, many of us tend to close their eyes when lis­ten­ing con­di­tions become chal­leng­ing, for exam­ple on the phone. It is thus sur­pris­ing that there is no pub­lished work on the behav­iour­al or neur­al con­se­quences of clos­ing the eyes dur­ing atten­tive lis­ten­ing. In the present study, we demon­strate that eye clo­sure does not only increase the over­all lev­el of absolute alpha pow­er but also the degree to which audi­to­ry atten­tion mod­u­lates alpha pow­er over time in syn­chrony with attend­ing to ver­sus ignor­ing speech. How­ev­er, our behav­iour­al results pro­vide evi­dence for the absence of any dif­fer­ence in lis­ten­ing per­for­mance with closed ver­sus open eyes. The like­ly rea­son for this is that the impact of eye clo­sure on neur­al oscil­la­to­ry dynam­ics does not match alpha pow­er mod­u­la­tions asso­ci­at­ed with lis­ten­ing per­for­mance pre­cise­ly enough (see figure).

The paper is avail­able as preprint here.

 

Categories
Adaptive Control Ageing Attention Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Speech Processing Executive Functions fMRI Papers Psychology Uncategorized

New paper in PNAS by Alavash, Tune, Obleser

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)

Categories
Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience fMRI Papers Publications

New paper by Erb et al. in Cere­bral Cor­tex: Human but not mon­key audi­to­ry cor­tex is tuned to slow tem­po­ral rates

In a new com­par­a­tive fMRI study just pub­lished in Cere­bral Cor­tex, AC post­doc Julia Erb and her col­lab­o­ra­tors in the Formisano (Maas­tricht Uni­ver­si­ty) and Van­duf­fel labs (KU Leu­ven) pro­vide us with nov­el insights into speech evo­lu­tion. These data by Erb et al. reveal homolo­gies and dif­fer­ences in nat­ur­al sound-encod­ing in human and non-human pri­mate cortex.

From the Abstract: “Under­stand­ing homolo­gies and dif­fer­ences in audi­to­ry cor­ti­cal pro­cess­ing in human and non­hu­man pri­mates is an essen­tial step in elu­ci­dat­ing the neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy of speech and lan­guage. Using fMRI respons­es to nat­ur­al sounds, we inves­ti­gat­ed the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mul­ti­ple acoustic fea­tures in audi­to­ry cor­tex of awake macaques and humans. Com­par­a­tive analy­ses revealed homol­o­gous large-scale topogra­phies not only for fre­quen­cy but also for tem­po­ral and spec­tral mod­u­la­tions. Con­verse­ly, we observed a strik­ing inter­species dif­fer­ence in cor­ti­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ty to tem­po­ral mod­u­la­tions: While decod­ing from macaque audi­to­ry cor­tex was most accu­rate at fast rates (> 30 Hz), humans had high­est sen­si­tiv­i­ty to ~3 Hz, a rel­e­vant rate for speech analy­sis. These find­ings sug­gest that char­ac­ter­is­tic tun­ing of human audi­to­ry cor­tex to slow tem­po­ral mod­u­la­tions is unique and may have emerged as a crit­i­cal step in the evo­lu­tion of speech and language.”

The paper is avail­able here. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Julia!

Categories
Attention Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience EEG / MEG Papers Perception Psychology Publications

New paper in Neu­roim­age by Fiedler et al.: Track­ing ignored speech matters

Lis­ten­ing requires selec­tive neur­al pro­cess­ing of the incom­ing sound mix­ture, which in humans is borne out by a sur­pris­ing­ly clean rep­re­sen­ta­tion of attend­ed-only speech in audi­to­ry cor­tex. How this neur­al selec­tiv­i­ty is achieved even at neg­a­tive sig­nal-to-noise ratios (SNR) remains unclear. We show that, under such con­di­tions, a late cor­ti­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion (i.e., neur­al track­ing) of the ignored acoustic sig­nal is key to suc­cess­ful sep­a­ra­tion of attend­ed and dis­tract­ing talk­ers (i.e., neur­al selec­tiv­i­ty). We record­ed and mod­eled the elec­troen­cephalo­graph­ic response of 18 par­tic­i­pants who attend­ed to one of two simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pre­sent­ed sto­ries, while the SNR between the two talk­ers var­ied dynam­i­cal­ly between +6 and −6 dB. The neur­al track­ing showed an increas­ing ear­ly-to-late atten­tion-biased selec­tiv­i­ty. Impor­tant­ly, acousti­cal­ly dom­i­nant (i.e., loud­er) ignored talk­ers were tracked neu­ral­ly by late involve­ment of fron­to-pari­etal regions, which con­tributed to enhanced neur­al selec­tiv­i­ty. This neur­al selec­tiv­i­ty, by way of rep­re­sent­ing the ignored talk­er, pos­es a mech­a­nis­tic neur­al account of atten­tion under real-life acoustic conditions.

The paper is avail­able here.

Categories
Auditory Cortex EEG / MEG Papers Perception Publications

New paper in press in the Euro­pean Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science: Wöst­mann et al demon­strate that the pow­er of pres­tim­u­lus alpha oscil­la­tions direct­ly relates to con­fi­dence in pitch-discrimination

What is the mech­a­nis­tic rel­e­vance of neur­al alpha oscil­la­tions (~10 Hz) for per­cep­tion? To answer this ques­tion, we analysed EEG data from a task that required par­tic­i­pants to com­pare the pitch of two tones that were, unbe­knownst to par­tic­i­pants, iden­ti­cal. Impor­tant­ly, this task entire­ly removed poten­tial con­founds of vary­ing evi­dence in the stim­u­lus or vary­ing accu­ra­cy. We found that high­er pres­tim­u­lus alpha pow­er cor­re­lat­ed with low­er con­fi­dence in pitch dis­crim­i­na­tion. These results demon­strate that the rela­tion­ship of pres­tim­u­lus alpha pow­er and deci­sion con­fi­dence is direct in nature and, that it shows up in the audi­to­ry modal­i­ty sim­i­lar to what has been shown before in vision and somatosen­sa­tion. Our find­ings sup­port the view that low­er pres­tim­u­lus alpha pow­er enhances neur­al base­line excitability.

The paper is avail­able as preprint here.

Categories
Attention Auditory Cortex Brain stimulation Papers Perception Publications

New paper in press in JASA: Kre­it­e­wolf et al. on the role of voice-fea­ture con­ti­nu­ity for cock­tail-par­ty listening

Oble­ser­lab post­doc Jens Kre­it­e­wolf is in press in The Jour­nal of the Acousti­cal Soci­ety of America!

Togeth­er with our col­leagues, Marc Schön­wies­ner (Montreal/Leipzig), Samuel Math­ias (Yale), and Régis Tra­peau (Montreal/Marseille), we inves­ti­gat­ed the roles of two of the most salient voice fea­tures, glot­tal-pulse rate (GPR) and vocal-tract length (VTL), for per­cep­tu­al group­ing in the cock­tail par­ty. Using care­ful­ly con­trolled stim­uli, we show that lis­ten­ers exploit con­ti­nu­ity in both voice fea­tures to solve the cock­tail-par­ty prob­lem, but that VTL con­ti­nu­ity plays a stronger role for per­cep­tu­al group­ing than GPR con­ti­nu­ity. Our find­ings are in line with the dif­fer­en­tial impor­tance of VTL and GPR for the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of nat­ur­al talk­ers and have clin­i­cal­ly rel­e­vant impli­ca­tions for cock­tail-par­ty lis­ten­ing in cochlear-implant users.

Data were record­ed using the Dome at BRAMS dur­ing Jens’ ACN Eras­mus Mundus exchange in Montreal.

The paper is avail­able as preprint:

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/07/30/379545

 

Categories
Adaptive Control Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Working Memory Neural Oscillations Papers Perception Psychology Uncategorized

New paper in The Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science: Wilsch et al.., Tem­po­ral expec­ta­tion mod­u­lates the cor­ti­cal dynam­ics of short-term memory

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Oble­ser­lab alum­na Anna Wilsch, who is – for now – leav­ing acad­e­mia on a true high with her lat­est offer­ing on how tem­po­ral expec­ta­tions (“fore­knowl­edge” about when some­thing is to hap­pen) shape the neur­al make-up of memory!

Record­ed while the Oble­ser­lab was still in Leipzig at the Max Planck, and analysed with great input from our co-authors Mol­ly Hen­ry, Björn Her­rmann as well as Christoph Her­rmann (Old­en­burg), Anna used Mag­ne­toen­cephalog­ra­phy in an intri­cate but ulti­mate­ly very sim­ple sen­so­ry-mem­o­ry paradigm.

 

While sen­so­ry mem­o­ries of the phys­i­cal world fade quick­ly, Anna here shows that this decay of short-term mem­o­ry can be coun­ter­act­ed by tem­po­ral expectation.

Notably, spa­tial­ly dis­trib­uted cor­ti­cal pat­terns of alpha (8−−13 Hz) pow­er showed oppos­ing effects in audi­to­ry vs. visu­al sen­so­ry cor­tices. More­over, alpha-tuned con­nec­tiv­i­ty changes with­in supramodal atten­tion net­works reflect the allo­ca­tion of neur­al resources as short-term mem­o­ry rep­re­sen­ta­tions fade.

— to be updat­ed as the paper will become avail­able online –