Auditory Cortex Auditory Perception Media Neural Oscillations Papers Publications Uncategorized

New fea­turette in eLife: Tell me some­thing I don’t know

For those inter­est­ed in audi­to­ry cor­tex and how a regime of pre­dic­tions, pre­dic­tion updates and sur­prise (a ver­sion of “pre­dic­tion error”) might be imple­ment­ed there, I con­tributed a brief fea­turette (“insight”, they call it) to eLife on a recent paper by Will Sed­ley, Tim Grif­fiths, and oth­ers. Check it out.

[For those not so famil­iar with it, “eLife”, despite its aes­thet­i­cal­ly ques­tion­able name, pos­es an inter­est­ing and rel­a­tive­ly new, high-pro­file, open-access pub­lish­ing effort by nobel-prize-win­ning Randy Schek­man, for­mer SfN pres­i­dent Eve Marder and others.] 
Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Perception Auditory Speech Processing Editorial Notes EEG / MEG Executive Functions Neural Oscillations Neural Phase Papers Publications Speech Uncategorized

[UPDATE] New paper in PNAS: Spa­tiotem­po­ral dynam­ics of audi­to­ry atten­tion syn­chro­nize with speech, Woest­mann et al.

Wöst­mann, Her­rmann, Maess and Obleser demon­strate that the hemi­spher­ic lat­er­al­iza­tion of neur­al alpha oscil­la­tions mea­sured in the mag­ne­toen­cephalo­gram (MEG) syn­chro­nizes with the speech sig­nal and pre­dicts lis­ten­ers’ speech comprehension.

Now avail­able online:

Press release:


Atten­tion plays a fun­da­men­tal role in selec­tive­ly pro­cess­ing stim­uli in our envi­ron­ment despite dis­trac­tion. Spa­tial atten­tion induces increas­ing and decreas­ing pow­er of neur­al alpha oscil­la­tions (8–12 Hz) in brain regions ipsi­lat­er­al and con­tralat­er­al to the locus of atten­tion, respec­tive­ly. This study test­ed whether the hemi­spher­ic lat­er­al­iza­tion of alpha pow­er codes not just the spa­tial loca­tion but also the tem­po­ral struc­ture of the stim­u­lus. Par­tic­i­pants attend­ed to spo­ken dig­its pre­sent­ed to one ear and ignored tight­ly syn­chro­nized dis­tract­ing dig­its pre­sent­ed to the oth­er ear. In the mag­ne­toen­cephalo­gram, spa­tial atten­tion induced lat­er­al­iza­tion of alpha pow­er in pari­etal, but notably also in audi­to­ry cor­ti­cal regions. This alpha pow­er lat­er­al­iza­tion was not main­tained steadi­ly but fluc­tu­at­ed in syn­chrony with the speech rate and lagged the time course of low-fre­quen­cy (1–5 Hz) sen­so­ry syn­chro­niza­tion. High­er ampli­tude of alpha pow­er mod­u­la­tion at the speech rate was pre­dic­tive of a listener’s enhanced per­for­mance of stream-spe­cif­ic speech com­pre­hen­sion. Our find­ings demon­strate that alpha pow­er lat­er­al­iza­tion is mod­u­lat­ed in tune with the sen­so­ry input and acts as a spa­tiotem­po­ral fil­ter con­trol­ling the read-out of sen­so­ry content.
Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Perception EEG / MEG Neural Oscillations Papers Publications Speech

New paper: Her­rmann, Hen­ry, Hae­gens & Obleser in Neuroimage

And again, AC-Alum­ni Björn Her­rmann got a new paper in press / online at Neu­roIm­age on

Tem­po­ral expec­ta­tions and neur­al ampli­tude fluc­tu­a­tions in audi­to­ry cor­tex inter­ac­tive­ly influ­ence perception

Align­ment of neur­al oscil­la­tions with tem­po­ral­ly reg­u­lar input allows lis­ten­ers to gen­er­ate tem­po­ral expec­ta­tions. How­ev­er, it remains unclear how behav­ior is gov­erned in the con­text of tem­po­ral vari­abil­i­ty: What role do tem­po­ral expec­ta­tions play, and how do they inter­act with the strength of neur­al oscil­la­to­ry activ­i­ty? Here, human par­tic­i­pants detect­ed near-thresh­old tar­gets in tem­po­ral­ly vari­able acoustic sequences. Tem­po­ral expec­ta­tion strength was esti­mat­ed using an oscil­la­tor mod­el and pre-tar­get neur­al ampli­tudes in audi­to­ry cor­tex were extract­ed from mag­ne­toen­cephalog­ra­phy sig­nals. Tem­po­ral expec­ta­tions mod­u­lat­ed tar­get-detec­tion per­for­mance, how­ev­er, only when neur­al delta-band ampli­tudes were large. Thus, slow neur­al oscil­la­tions act to gate influ­ences of tem­po­ral expec­ta­tion on per­cep­tion. Fur­ther­more, slow ampli­tude fluc­tu­a­tions gov­erned lin­ear and qua­drat­ic influ­ences of audi­to­ry alpha-band activ­i­ty on per­for­mance. By fus­ing a mod­el of tem­po­ral expec­ta­tion with neur­al oscil­la­to­ry dynam­ics, the cur­rent find­ings show that human per­cep­tion in tem­po­ral­ly vari­able con­texts relies on com­plex inter­ac­tions between mul­ti­ple neur­al fre­quen­cy bands.



  • Her­rmann B1, Hen­ry MJ2, Hae­gens S3, Obleser J4. Tem­po­ral expec­ta­tions and neur­al ampli­tude fluc­tu­a­tions in audi­to­ry cor­tex inter­ac­tive­ly influ­ence per­cep­tion. Neu­roim­age. 2015 Sep 18;124(Pt A):487–497. PMID: 26386347. [Open with Read]
Ageing Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Perception Degraded Acoustics EEG / MEG Evoked Activity Hearing Loss Papers Psychology Publications Speech

New paper in press: Wöst­mann, Schröger, & Obleser in J Cogn Neurosci

Con­grat­u­la­tion to PhD stu­dent Malte Wöst­mann, who – with Erich Schröger and Jonas Obleser – has a new arti­cle in press at the Jour­nal of Cog­ni­tive Neuroscience

Acoustic detail guides atten­tion allo­ca­tion in a selec­tive lis­ten­ing task

forth­com­ing. We will update you accord­ing­ly as the paper comes online. We will share how­ev­er one of Malte’s fig­ures here as a teas­er: The paper utilis­es a very clas­sic com­po­nent of the evoked poten­tial, the con­tin­gent neg­a­tive vari­a­tion (the CNV; or a close rel­a­tive there­of, see the actu­al paper for dis­cus­sion) to study how old­er and younger lis­ten­ers allo­cate their atten­tion­al resources depend­ing on implic­it cues on to-be-expect­ed lis­ten­ing difficulties.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 19.37.43


  • Wöst­mann M1, Schröger E, Obleser J. Acoustic Detail Guides Atten­tion Allo­ca­tion in a Selec­tive Lis­ten­ing Task. J Cogn Neu­rosci. 2014 Nov 12:1–13. PMID: 25390200. [Open with Read]
Auditory Cortex Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Perception EEG / MEG Neural Oscillations Neural Phase Papers Psychology

New paper in press: Hen­ry, Her­rmann, & Obleser in PNAS

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Audi­to­ry Cognition’s very own Mol­ly Hen­ry who, with Björn Her­rmann and Jonas Obleser, is about to pub­lish yet anoth­er PNAS paper:

Entrained neur­al oscil­la­tions in mul­ti­ple fre­quen­cy bands co-mod­u­late behavior

Hen­ry MJ, Her­rmann B, & Obleser J. PNAS, in press.

We are very excit­ed about this one, as it harks back to Molly’s 2012 PNAS paper yet ups the ante some­what: How do neur­al oscil­la­tions behave towards a more real­is­ti­cal­ly com­plex mix­ture of acoustic reg­u­lar­i­ties, and how does lis­ten­ing behav­iour change as a func­tion of var­i­ous neur­al entrained phases?

read a short sum­ma­ry here…
Our sen­so­ry envi­ron­ment is teem­ing with com­plex rhyth­mic struc­ture, but how do envi­ron­men­tal rhythms (like those present in speech or music) affect our per­cep­tion? In a human elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy study, we inves­ti­gat­ed how audi­to­ry per­cep­tion is affect­ed when brain rhythms (neur­al oscil­la­tions) syn­chro­nize with the com­plex rhyth­mic struc­ture in syn­thet­ic sounds that pos­sessed rhyth­mic char­ac­ter­is­tics sim­i­lar to speech. We found that neur­al phase in mul­ti­ple fre­quen­cy bands syn­chro­nized to the com­plex stim­u­lus rhythm and inter­act­ed to deter­mine tar­get-detec­tion per­for­mance. Crit­i­cal­ly, the influ­ence of neur­al oscil­la­tions on tar­get-detec­tion per­for­mance was present only for fre­quen­cy bands syn­chro­nized with the rhyth­mic struc­ture of the stim­uli. Our results elu­ci­date how mul­ti­ple fre­quen­cy bands shape the effec­tive neur­al pro­cess­ing of envi­ron­men­tal stimuli.

Stay tuned until after PNAS embar­go has been lifted!


PNAS paper is online. Check it out here.


  • Hen­ry MJ1, Her­rmann B2, Obleser J1. Entrained neur­al oscil­la­tions in mul­ti­ple fre­quen­cy bands comod­u­late behav­ior. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Oct 14;111(41):14935–40. PMID: 25267634. [Open with Read]
Auditory Neuroscience Auditory Perception Auditory Speech Processing Clinical relevance Degraded Acoustics Gyrus Angularis Linguistics Noise-Vocoded Speech Papers Perception Psychology Speech

New paper in press: Hartwigsen, Golombek, & Obleser in Cor­tex [UPDATED]

In a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Uni­ver­si­ty Clin­ic of Leipzig and Prof Dr Gesa Hartwigsen (now Uni­ver­si­ty of Kiel), a new paper is to appear in “Cor­tex”, in the forth­com­ing spe­cial issue on Pre­dic­tion in Speech and Lan­guage, edit­ed by Alessan­dro Tavano and AC alum­nus Math­ias Scharinger.

Repet­i­tive tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic stim­u­la­tion over left angu­lar gyrus mod­u­lates the pre­dictabil­i­ty gain in degrad­ed speech comprehension

Hartwigsen G, Golombek T, & Obleser J.

See abstract
Increased neur­al activ­i­ty in left angu­lar gyrus (AG) accom­pa­nies suc­cess­ful com­pre­hen­sion of acousti­cal­ly degrad­ed but high­ly pre­dictable sen­tences, as pre­vi­ous func­tion­al imag­ing stud­ies have shown. How­ev­er, it remains unclear whether the left AG is causal­ly rel­e­vant for the com­pre­hen­sion of degrad­ed speech. Here, we applied tran­sient vir­tu­al lesions to either the left AG or supe­ri­or pari­etal lobe (SPL, as a con­trol area) with repet­i­tive tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic stim­u­la­tion (rTMS) while healthy vol­un­teers lis­tened to and repeat­ed sen­tences with high- vs. low-pre­dictable end­ings and dif­fer­ent noise vocod­ing lev­els. We expect­ed that rTMS of AG should selec­tive­ly mod­u­late the pre­dictabil­i­ty gain (i.e., the com­pre­hen­sion ben­e­fit from sen­tences with high-pre­dictable end­ings) at a medi­um degra­da­tion lev­el. We found that rTMS of AG indeed reduced the pre­dictabil­i­ty gain at a medi­um degra­da­tion lev­el of 4‑band noise vocod­ing (rel­a­tive to con­trol rTMS of SPL). In con­trast, the behav­ioral per­tur­ba­tion induced by rTMS reversed with increased sig­nal qual­i­ty. Hence, at 8‑band noise vocod­ing, rTMS over AG vs. SPL increased the over­all pre­dictabil­i­ty gain. Togeth­er, these results show that the degree of the rTMS inter­fer­ence depend­ed joint­ly on sig­nal qual­i­ty and pre­dictabil­i­ty. Our results pro­vide the first causal evi­dence that the left AG is a crit­i­cal node for facil­i­tat­ing speech com­pre­hen­sion in chal­leng­ing lis­ten­ing conditions.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 21.19.17

Check it out soon!


  • Hartwigsen G1, Golombek T2, Obleser J3. Repet­i­tive tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic stim­u­la­tion over left angu­lar gyrus mod­u­lates the pre­dictabil­i­ty gain in degrad­ed speech com­pre­hen­sion. Cor­tex. 2014 Sep 18. PMID: 25444577. [Open with Read]
Ageing Auditory Perception Degraded Acoustics EEG / MEG Hearing Loss Neural Oscillations Papers Perception Publications Speech

Strauß strikes again — fron­tiers in Human Neuroscience

It’s only a week ago that we updat­ed you about Antje’s lat­est pub­li­ca­tion at Neu­roIm­age. Today, there is a anoth­er one com­ing in; Antje’s, Mal­te’s & Jonas’ per­spec­tive arti­cle on cor­ti­cal alpha oscil­la­tions is in press at fron­tiers in HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE.

Cor­ti­cal alpha oscil­la­tions as a tool for audi­to­ry selec­tive inhibition

— Strauß, Wöst­mann & Obleser

See abstract
Lis­ten­ing to speech is often demand­ing because of sig­nal degra­da­tions and the pres­ence of dis­tract­ing sounds (i.e., “noise”). The ques­tion how the brain achieves the task of extract­ing only rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion from the mix­ture of sounds reach­ing the ear (i.e., “cock­tail par­ty prob­lem”) is still open. In anal­o­gy to recent find­ings in vision, we pro­pose cor­ti­cal alpha (~10 Hz) oscil­la­tions mea­sur­able using M/EEG as a piv­otal mech­a­nism to selec­tive­ly inhib­it the pro­cess­ing of noise to improve audi­to­ry selec­tive atten­tion to task-rel­e­vant sig­nals. We review ini­tial evi­dence of enhanced alpha activ­i­ty in selec­tive lis­ten­ing tasks, sug­gest­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role of alpha-mod­u­lat­ed noise sup­pres­sion in speech. We dis­cuss the impor­tance of dis­so­ci­at­ing between noise inter­fer­ence in the audi­to­ry periph­ery (i.e., ener­getic mask­ing) and noise inter­fer­ence with more cen­tral cog­ni­tive aspects of speech pro­cess­ing (i.e., infor­ma­tion­al mask­ing). Final­ly, we point out the adverse effects of age-relat­ed hear­ing loss and/or cog­ni­tive decline on audi­to­ry selec­tive inhi­bi­tion. With this per­spec­tive arti­cle, we set the stage for future stud­ies on the inhibito­ry role of alpha oscil­la­tions for speech pro­cess­ing in chal­leng­ing lis­ten­ing situations.


  • Strauß A1, Wöst­mann M2, Obleser J1. Cor­ti­cal alpha oscil­la­tions as a tool for audi­to­ry selec­tive inhi­bi­tion. Front Hum Neu­rosci. 2014 May 28;8:350. PMID: 24904385. [Open with Read]
Auditory Perception Auditory Working Memory Events fMRI Neural Oscillations Neural Phase Posters

Come and find us at CNS 2014 in Boston this weekend

The Obleser lab will be pre­sent­ing four posters at this year’s Annu­al Meet­ing of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Soci­ety in Boston.

If you hap­pen to be there, come check us out!

A125Hemo­dy­nam­ic sig­na­tures of (mis-)perceiving tem­po­ral change
Her­rmann, Bjoern

C63Tem­po­ral pre­dictabil­i­ty atten­u­ates decay in sen­so­ry memory
Wilsch, Anna

D54Stim­u­lus dis­crim­inabil­i­ty and pre­dic­tive­ness mod­u­late alpha oscil­la­tions in a per­cep­tu­al­ly demand­ing mem­o­ry task
Wöst­mann, Malte

D130Slow acoustic fluc­tu­a­tions entrain low-fre­quen­cy neur­al oscil­la­tions and deter­mine psy­choa­coustic performance
Hen­ry, Molly