I've just had a wonderful visit to the University of Maryland, where I gave a talk as part of the Neuroscience and Cognitive Science seminar series. (Luckily for the audience, I never was able to think of an appropriate April Fool's joke to incorporate into my talk.) Stefanie Kuchinsky hosted me, and I had a great time meeting so many interesting folks—my mind has expanded. Thanks for a great trip!
I'm in Sydney, Australia where I've just given a talk at the Australian Hearing Hub at Macquarie University. It's my first visit to Macquarie and it's been great. The recently-established Hesring Hub combines researchers, clinicians, and industry partners in a single building (which includes a nice cafe on the ground floor...I'm jealous). This multi-pronged approach to hearing science is exemplary and a model for interdisciplinary collaboration. I look forward to good things happening here over the coming years!
One of the special treats on my visit was a visit to the state-of-the-art anechoic chamber in the basement. Now THAT is a proper sound booth.
I gave a talk today at University College London, to the Speech Science Forum. UCL has a strong complement of speech, language, and cognitive scientists and it was a real pleasure to be here. There were a lot of interesting questions afterward, and several people helpfully pointed me towards some additional constraints or predictions that would be useful to consider.
As a side note, London will be the location of the 2016 annual meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language..it will be a great opportunity to visit this amazing city.
I gave a talk today at the Center for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at Oxford University. Though I spent over two years in Cambridge I was only in Oxford once before—and that was literally just to stop at the Eagle and Child. So, this is my first proper visit to Oxford, and I'm enjoying it very much.
The audience was diverse, as many people at CNBC are doing theoretical work or work in nonhuman systems (including both ferrets and *drosophila*—fruit flies). If I'm not mistaken there were so some folks from Experimental Psychology and FMRIB. I tried to give an overview of recent work on the role of ongoing oscillations in speech perception, and connect this with a somewhat separate line of research showing that degraded or noisy speech requires additional cognitive resources. The lines between these two bodies of research are tentative but also tantalizing. In any case, it's been a great visit and I'm already looking forward to returning!
I'm in Washington DC for the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). SfN was my first scientific conference (San Diego, 2001) and it always has a special place in my heart: I'm always inspired by the diversity of methods and approaches to studying the brain.
This year I had the pleasure of speaking in a symposium on hearing impairment that Art Wingfield and I organized. Andy King started the symposium off by talking about animal models of hearing loss, and how hearing impairment affects spatial localization abilities. Barb Shinn-Cunningham talked about the impact of hearing loss on auditory attention in human listeners. Paul Miller talked about some elegant cognitive modeling work he has done to tease apart cognitive processes involved in processing degraded speech. And I finished up the session by attempting to summarize the rather large literature on the cognitive effects of acoustic challenge.
One analogy to hearing impairment is to think about having blurred vision. Those of us who wear glasses can attest to the fact that it's possible to see things without them, but it can be more difficult (and we may make more errors!). The analogy to vision is imperfect, however, because we frequently have the opportunity to look at objects around us for as long as we'd like to. When listening to degraded speech, we have only a brief moment to understand what we hear. If we are unable to, we need to maintain a representation in memory to have any hope of recovering meaning.
The simple take home message is that hearing loss impacts neural functioning at multiple levels, from "low level" responses in auditory cortex to affecting verbal short-term memory and attention-based performance monitoring in humans. Although the details are still actively being investigated it was inspiring to see, again, the multidisciplinary approaches being taken.
I'm in Washington, DC today to give a talk at the Gerontological Society of America Annual Meeting. I'm speaking as part of a very interesting symposium organized by Frank Lin and Michelle Carlson: "Hearing impairment, cognition, and brain function—insights from epidemiological and clinical studies". Other speakers include Jerker Rönnberg and Jennifer Deal. For my part, I'm giving an overview of how MRI studies have helped us understand the effects of hearing loss on brain structure and function. I'm glad to have a chance to talk about these important issues with this audience!