The lab's research aims to understand how we engage in listening and communication as we age and why some people who are hard of hearing disengage from social, communication-mediated activities. We focus on how sounds are encoded in sensory systems, how cognitive processes support listening under challenges, and how sensation and cognition interact to shape listening experiences. We aim to develop better knowledge of the changes in neural circuits associated with aging and hearing loss that lead to adverse listening experiences and disengagement. We tackle these questions from different perspectives ranging from mechanistic neurophysiology to listening experiences in real social situations. We utilize a wide range of methods including electroencephalography, magnetoencephalography, eye-tracking, pupillometry, functional imaging, and psychophysics. Read more about specific research projects below.
Story listening in background noise is absorbing despite listening effort
2020: Trends in Hearing
Positive listening experiences, such as enjoyment or feeling absorbed/immersed in what is said, are not commonly studied despite their potential importance in motivating effortful listening. We use engaging spoken stories to investigate how positive listening experiences are affected by speech masking.
Aging is associated with an over-sensitivity of brain responses to sound
2018: The Journal of Neuroscience
Aging and hearing loss lead to increased neural responses to sounds in the auditory cortex compared to younger people. Enhanced neural activity to sound may be a physiological mechanism underlying the difficulty that older adults have with ignoring irrelevant sound information.
Attentional state affects how we perceive correlation between sound features
2018: Journal of Experimental Psychology: HPP
Acoustic features such as modulation rate, sound level, and frequency co-vary in speech and music. A listener perceives sounds as changing in one feature when the sound changes in another feature. When a listener is not optimally attentive, they rely strongly on featural co-variations for sound perception.
Brain activity adapts to spectral variance in acoustic environments
2013: Journal of Neurophysiology
Everyday sound environments, such as a crowded restaurant, continuously change. Neural activity in auditory cortex flexibly adapts to spectral properties (here variance) of sound environments, providing a potentially crucial mechanism to optimize perception.