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Editorial Notes

2015 — Embrac­ing Change in the Obleser Lab

Time flies: The Audi­to­ry Cog­ni­tion group aka The Obleser Lab has just entered its fifth year. We took off prop­er­ly in ear­ly 2011, so this is a good point in time to briefly recap. We have had four excit­ing and very pro­duc­tive years so far, and this fifth year is bring­ing a lot of excit­ing turn-over as well. First, new faces have joined our group:

Dr. Sophie Herb­st a psy­chol­o­gist with keen inter­ests in time per­cep­tion joined us as a post­doc, com­ing from Niko Busch’s lab at the Char­ité Berlin.

Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Lorenz Fiedler joined us to help us build real-time links between EEG and hear­ing aids, as planned in our Volk­swa­gen project.

Sec­ond, a few great tal­ents have moved on with the begin­ning of 2015:

Antje Strauß just received her Dr. rer. nat. (PhD) from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Leipzig and is now at the GIPSA lab, Uni­ver­si­ty of Greno­ble, France.

Dr. Mol­ly Hen­ry and Dr. Björn Her­rmann have both tak­en up new Post­doc­tor­al jobs at the Uni­ver­si­ty of West­ern Ontario, Lon­don, Ontario, CA. They will be work­ing with Jes­si­ca Grahn and Ingrid John­srude, respec­tive­ly.

Dr. Alex Brand­mey­er could not resist a fan­tas­tic offer by Dol­by Sys­tems Inc., San Fran­cis­co to join them as a research scientist.

Ear­li­er in autumn 2014 already, Julia Erb had tak­en up a post­doc posi­tion with Elia Formisano at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Maas­tricht.

… the best of luck and many thanks to all the new AC alumni!

Last­ly, Jonas as head of the group has just been appoint­ed Pro­fes­sor for Research Meth­ods and Sta­tis­tics at the (new­ly-found­ed) Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy, Uni­ver­si­ty of Lübeck, Ger­many.

These great news also imply that the Audi­to­ry Cog­ni­tion group as a whole will, as con­ceived by the Max Planck Soci­ety when pro­vid­ing this five-year start-up fund­ing, slow­ly trans­plant to a new place, name­ly: Lübeck, over the year to come. Watch this space! Yet, the labels “auditorycognition.com” and “obleserlab.com” will sure­ly remain active and move with us.

Editorial Notes

Wel­come Sung-Joo Lim & Alex Brandmeyer

We wel­come Sung-Joo Lim (KR) & Alex Brand­mey­er (US) as new post­doc­tor­al researchers in the group.

Sung-Joo very recent­ly received her Ph.D. from the Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­si­ty, Pitts­burgh, PA (US), after

Inves­ti­gat­ing the Neur­al Basis of Sound Cat­e­go­ry Learn­ing with­in a Nat­u­ral­is­tic Inci­den­tal Task

See her abstract
Adults have noto­ri­ous dif­fi­cul­ty learn­ing non-native speech cat­e­gories even with exten­sive train­ing with stan­dard tasks pro­vid­ing explic­it tri­al-by-tri­al feed­back. Recent research in gen­er­al audi­to­ry cat­e­go­ry learn­ing demon­strates that videogame-based train­ing, which incor­po­rates fea­tures that mod­el the nat­u­ral­is­tic learn­ing envi­ron­ment, leads to fast and robust learn­ing of sound cat­e­gories. Unlike stan­dard tasks, the videogame par­a­digm does not require overt cat­e­go­riza­tion of or explic­it atten­tion to sounds; lis­ten­ers learn sounds inci­den­tal­ly as the game encour­ages the func­tion­al use of sounds in an envi­ron­ment, in which actions and feed­back are tight­ly linked to task suc­cess. These char­ac­ter­is­tics may engage rein­force­ment learn­ing sys­tems, which can poten­tial­ly gen­er­ate inter­nal feed­back sig­nals from the stria­tum. How­ev­er, the influ­ence of stri­atal sig­nals on per­cep­tu­al learn­ing and plas­tic­i­ty online dur­ing train­ing has yet to be estab­lished. This dis­ser­ta­tion work focus­es on the pos­si­bil­i­ty that this type of train­ing can lead to behav­ioral learn­ing of non-native speech cat­e­gories, and on the inves­ti­ga­tion of neur­al process­es pos­tu­lat­ed to be sig­nif­i­cant for induc­ing inci­den­tal learn­ing of sound cat­e­gories with­in the more nat­u­ral­is­tic train­ing envi­ron­ment by using fMRI. Over­all, our results sug­gest that reward-relat­ed sig­nals from the stria­tum influ­ence per­cep­tu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions in regions asso­ci­at­ed with the pro­cess­ing of reli­able infor­ma­tion that can improve per­for­mance with­in a nat­u­ral­is­tic learn­ing task.

Alex very recent­ly received his Ph.D. from the Rad­boud Uni­ver­si­ty of Nijmegen (NL), address­ing his the­sis top­ic with

Audi­to­ry brain-com­put­er inter­faces for per­cep­tu­al learn­ing in speech and music

See his abstract
We per­ceive the sounds in our envi­ron­ment, such as lan­guage and music, effort­less­ly and trans­par­ent­ly, unaware of the com­plex neu­ro­phys­i­o­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms that under­lie our expe­ri­ences. Using elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy (EEG) and tech­niques from the field of machine learn­ing, it’s pos­si­ble to mon­i­tor our per­cep­tion of the audi­to­ry world in real-time and to pin­point indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in per­cep­tu­al abil­i­ties relat­ed to native-lan­guage back­ground and audi­to­ry expe­ri­ence. Going fur­ther, these same meth­ods can be used to pro­vide indi­vid­u­als with neu­ro­feed­back dur­ing audi­to­ry per­cep­tion as a means of mod­u­lat­ing brain respons­es to sounds, with the even­tu­al aim of incor­po­rat­ing these meth­ods into edu­ca­tion­al set­tings to aid in audi­to­ry per­cep­tu­al learning.

Wish­ing you all the best.