The research in our lab spans across a wide range of areas to better understand how sounds are encoded in sensory systems, how cognitive processes support listening under challenges, and how sensation and cognition interact to shape listening experiences in younger and older adulthood. Here you will find a selection of specific research projects we conducted in the lab.
Modern AI speech is perceived as more human-like in older adulthood
2023: International Journal of Speech Technology
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) lead to an increasing number of encounters with computer-generated (AI) speech: smart homes and phones (e.g., Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’ Siri), automated phone services, train announcements, and grocery self-checkouts. In this work, we investigate how younger and older adults perceive AI speech.
Age-related benefits in dip-listening for engaging spoken stories
2022: Scientific Reports
Background sounds in crowded places like a cafe or restaurant typically fluctuate in intensity. Such fluctuations can help us understand speech, because they enable us to perceive glimpses of speech when the intensity of the background sound is low. We investigate whether younger and older adults differ in how much they benefit from such speech glimpses for comprehension.
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.