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Our Research

Jonas Obleser and the Research Group Audi­to­ry Cog­ni­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lübeck, Ger­many, study cog­ni­tive process­es in the human brain.

With our research, we aim to fos­ter a unique cog­ni­tive-neu­ro­science per­spec­tive on chal­leng­ing lis­ten­ing sit­u­a­tions, age-relat­ed hear­ing loss, and the psy­cho­log­i­cal and neur­al mech­a­nisms of suc­cess­ful adap­ta­tion to it.

Our method­olog­i­cal focus lies in neur­al and behav­iour­al dynam­ics, and we main­ly use audi­tion, speech, and lan­guage as our “mod­el system”.

Cur­rent research inter­ests:

Metacog­ni­tion in speech and listening
— ‘Did I hear this right?’ – this is a ques­tion of so-called metacog­ni­tion, or the ‘knowl­edge of one’s own cog­ni­tive process­es’. First, in lis­ten­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, our own assess­ment of our per­cep­tion (‘meta-lis­ten­ing’, almost) shapes our com­mu­ni­ca­tion behav­iour: Is the lis­ten­ing sit­u­a­tions deemed too effort­ful? Do I have the feel­ing not to under­stand any­thing?  Sec­ond, how­ev­er, indi­vid­ual per­cep­tu­al states and traits, such as a ten­den­cy to hal­lu­ci­nate or a marked degree of hear­ing loss, shape the per­cep­tu­al process itself, the way lis­ten­ers accu­mu­late sen­so­ry evi­dence and the deci­sions they derive from these percepts.

Main tools to answer ques­tions of ‘meta-lis­ten­ing’ derive from com­pu­ta­tion­al psy­chi­a­try and Bayesian mod­els of per­cep­tion; and we fuse audi­to­ry mod­el­ling (sen­so­ry evi­dence) with neu­ro­phys­i­o­log­i­cal read-outs (pupil­lom­e­try, EEG, fMRI) and com­pu­ta­tion­al mod­els of behaviour.

PI: Jonas Obleser

Audi­to­ry Attention
— How does the neur­al sys­tem imple­ment a listener’s behav­iour­al goal of attend­ing to sound? What are the psy­cho­log­i­cal and neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal ‘algo­rithms’ that we have come to sum under the term of attention?
Main tools are neur­al oscil­la­tions, neur­al track­ing of speech, psy­chophysics, as well as graph-the­o­ret­i­cal descrip­tions of brain activ­i­ty in EEG and fMRI

PIs: Jonas Obleser, Malte Wöst­mann, Mohsen Alavash

Neur­al Dynam­ics and Neur­al Com­pu­ta­tions serv­ing Cognition
— Brain activ­i­ty can be under­stood as a set of home­o­sta­t­ic and cyber­net­ic process­es on many tem­po­ral and spa­tial scales. We ask how excitation/Inhibition (E:I) bal­ance on a local, fast-time scale or net­work recon­fig­u­ra­tions on a more glob­al, medi­um- and slow-time scale shape the way we sense and per­ceive the world, and behave in it.
Main tools include quan­tifi­ca­tions of neur­al oscil­la­tions and scale-free activ­i­ty, hemo­dy­nam­ic fluc­tu­a­tions, pupil­lom­e­try; with a focus on math­e­mat­i­cal descrip­tors such as ordi­nal time-series or graph theory

PIs: Jonas Obleser, Hong-Viet Ngo, Mohsen Alavash

Acoustic Fea­tures and their Neur­al Transformations
— We study the spec­tro-tem­po­ral rep­re­sen­ta­tion of sound in the ascend­ing audi­to­ry path­way with respect to e.g., how voic­es are rep­re­sent­ed; how class­es of sound (e.g., speech vs. ani­mal vocal­i­sa­tions) as well as more lin­guis­tics lev­els in nat­ur­al speech become neu­ral­ly dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed; how these neur­al fea­tures shape per­cep­tu­al deci­sions; and how aber­rant per­cep­tion express­es neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal­ly in the audi­to­ry system.
Main tools include psy­chophysics, lin­ear and non-lin­ear neur­al encod­ing and decod­ing mod­els in func­tion­al MRI, brain stem and audi­to­ry cor­ti­cal electrophysiology

PIs: Jonas Obleser with  Julia Erb, and  Jens Kre­it­e­wolf, 

Trans­la­tion­al Neu­ro­science in Hear­ing Loss and Ageing 

— All three top­ics list­ed above feed into ques­tions of trans­la­tion­al neu­ro­science: Is healthy age­ing in and by itself chang­ing the organ­i­sa­tion of the lis­ten­ing brain? Is hear­ing loss a cause or an effect of senes­cent change in the lis­ten­ing brain? What are the neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal, per­cep­tu­al, and behav­iour­al con­se­quences of aid­ed hear­ing, includ­ing cochlear implants?

PIs: Jonas Obleser , Malte Wöst­mann,
with Julia Erb, Jens Kre­it­e­wolf,  and Sarah Tune


In 2014, Jonas was award­ed a Euro­pean Research Coun­cil (ERC) Con­sol­ida­tor grant for study­ing the adap­tive chal­lenges to the mid­dle-aged human adult lis­ten­ing brain (2016–2021).   Since 2019, Jonas has been serv­ing as a Review­ing Edi­tor for The Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science and eLife.