Dr. Claude Alain
Dr. Stephen Arnott
Kuang da Zhu
Claudia Freigang - from the University of Leipzig, Germany
Laura Sokka - University of Helsinki
Lab Managers/Research Assistants:
Dr. Steve Aiken – Assistant Professor, School of Human Communication Disorders, Dalhousie University
Dr. Hilmi Dajani – University of Ottawa
Yi Du - Research Assistant in Peking University, Beijing, China
Dr. Anthony Herdman – UBC School of Audiology and Speech Sciences
Dr. Roxane Itier – Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo
Dr. Sylvain Moreno – Lead Scientist, Centre for Brain Fitness
Olga Kciuk - continued education at University of Toronto
Cristina Saverino - continued education at Oxford Univesity, UK
Dr. Antoine Shahin – Assistant Professor & Director of Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Ohio State University Eye and Ear Institute
Jessica Quan - continued education in Medical School
Dr. Antonio Vallesi
Dr. Benjamin Zendel
There are two major research projects currently underway. These are:
2006-2011 MOP 81135 - Aging-related changes in central hearing: A neuromagnetic study
Investigators: Ross, Alain, Picton
Sponsors: Canadian Institutes of Health Research
2003-2008 MT-13364 - Human event-related potentials
Sponsors: Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Each of these projects consists of multiple experiments. Some of the experiments currently underway include:
Vowel Training: Neurophysiological studies of age-related changes in auditory perception - Cristina Saverino, Claude Alain
Sensory cortices exhibit an astounding degree of plasticity during development, particularly in childhood and early adolescence. The objective of the current study will be to examine whether young and older adults display similar changes in cortical activity during an auditory perceptual learning task. Cortical activity will be assessed by means of Magnetoencephalography (MEG), a highly useful tool to localize sources of activation in perceptual and motor areas. Participants will receive training on a concurrent vowel recognition task, in which younger and older adults will be required to distinguish between two different English vowels played simultaneously. Unpublished results demonstrated that MEG activity in the auditory cortex coincided with performance in young adults. We will establish whether these cortical changes in response to training also occur for older adults and whether they are similar to the changes seen in younger individuals.
Neurophysiological studies of age-related changes in concurrent sound segregation - Olga Kciuk, Claude Alain
Concurrent sounds are parsed using acoustic features of the incoming sound wave, such as frequency or spatial cues. Deficits in these parsing processes are thought to play a role in the difficulties experienced by older adults in understanding speech in situations with background noise. A dual-vowel identification task is being used to examine the effects of such acoustic cues on speech segregation in older adults. The auditory evoked fields (AEFs) elicited by the task in the primary auditory cortex are measured using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Unpublished results show that differing frequencies within a vowel pair are registered in the auditory cortex, even though behaviourally, two-vowel identification rates are low irrespective of cue availability. These results indicate that certain cue information, though registered centrally, is not integrated at a higher level so that it may help improve concurrent speech sound identification.
Neural Correlates of Change Deafness - Kristina Backer, Claude Alain
Change deafness is the auditory analogue of change blindness, or the failure to detect salient changes in a complex auditory scene. In a typical change deafness paradigm, two auditory scenes (comprised of 3 or more sounds) are played one after another, and some aspect within the second scene is changed (e.g. a sound changes location or is removed, etc.). Often, this change goes unnoticed. Both attentional and working memory accounts have been independently proposed to explain change deafness. In the current study, an attentional cue will be manipulated to further explore: 1) the extent to which change deafness arises from a working memory failure and 2) the interaction between memory and attention with respect to change deafness.
Neural correlates of ineffective study and effective retrieval - Alice Kim, Claude Alain, and Endel Tulving
Recent research has produced a surprising finding: standard conditions of repeated studying are essentially useless for long-term retention after an item's initial recall; instead, repeated testing is a critical factor. Although the facilitative role of testing (retrieval) for long-term retention is not altogether a new finding, this is the first time that the ineffectiveness of repeated studying has been demonstrated so strikingly. As yet there is no explanation for why repeated testing, but not repeated studying, leads to better long-term retention. To examine further this phenomenon of "useless study and useful testing" we will first replicate the behavioural effects of repeated studying and repeated testing and then measure the neural signatures of repeated studying and repeated testing using the event-related potential methodology.
Pitch-Encoding Differences Between Tone and Non-Tone Language-Speaking Musicians With and Without Absolute Pitch - Claude Alain, Stefanie Hutka
This study was the first to examine pitch-encoding in tone (Mandarin and Cantonese) and non-tone language (English) speaking musicians with and without absolute pitch (AP) (n=32). AP is the ability to label pitches without a reference pitch. Though AP is generally a rare ability, research suggests that development of AP may be facilitated by speaking a tone language (Deutsch et al., 2006). Neuroimaging studies suggest that language-related areas are activated when AP musicians process musical stimuli. I hypothesized that AP musicians, and particularly, tone-language-speakers with AP, would demonstrate greater accuracy and faster response times than both non-tone language speaking musicians with AP and without AP, on two audio-visual encoding tasks. Significant differences between AP and no-AP groups were found for both musical and non-musical stimuli, suggesting that individuals with AP may encode and combine audio-visual information more effectively than those without AP. A marginal significant interaction was found for tone-language and reaction time (but not accuracy) for encoding musical stimuli across tasks. Reference: Deutsch, D., Henthorn, T., Marvin, E., & Xu, H. (2006). Absolute pitch among Americans and Chinese conservatory students: Prevalence differences and evidence for a speech- related critical period. Acoustical Society of America, 119(2), 719-722.
Neuroimaging studies of auditory perception and attention: Attentional consequences of harmonic mistuning -- Ada W. S. Leung and Claude Alain
In order to perform concurrent sound segregation successfully, the auditory system often bases on the harmonic relations between components of a physical sound source. This mechanism, though believed to be dependent on low level processes that take place along the ascending auditory pathways, have recently been found sensitive to attention. However, the extent to which attention is deployed and how it is allocated during the sound segregation process is still unknown. The present study aimed to explicitly test the deployment of attention during processing of complex sounds. A series of experiments are conducted to examine whether attention allocated to mistuned harmonic can improve or hinder gap detection. Since gap detection is an attention demanding task, examining the gap detection performance allows us to evaluate the attentional deployment to the mistuned harmonic. Several experiments are designed to manipulate the degree of mistuning and the duration of the gap. The idea is that the attention being drawn to the mistuned harmonic might compete with that required to detect the gap and hence jeopardize gap detection. Both behavioral data and event-related potentials will be recorded for analysis.
Sleep, Consolidation and Experience-Based Changes in Performance and Neuromagnetic Brain - Claude Alain, Bernhard Ross, Kuang Da Zhu
Sleep has been shown to be important in the consolidation of newly acquired skills in visual, motor and auditory domains. Previous studies have found training-related changes in auditory perceptual learning in N1 and P2 with the latter possibly indexing slow-learning process that is dependent on sleep. In this experiment, participants will learn over multiple sessions to identify two simultaneously presented vowels that differ in frequency. We will manipulate time of testing (TOD) for each session to better understand the role of sleep in auditory learning as measured behaviourally and using magnetoencephalography (MEG).
Neuroimaging studies of auditory perception and attention: MEG study for auditory attentional blink - Dawei Shen and Claude Alain
The AB occurs when two targets are to be identified among distractors in a rapid serial auditory (or visual) presentation stream. In this situation, correct identification of the first target (target) may produce a deficit in processing the second target (probe), and this effect lasts several hundred milliseconds. In previous studies, the auditory attentional blink mainly concerned the influence of bottom –up factors (e.g., SOA and effects of distractors). At present, we investigate the influence of top-down factors on the auditory AB by using magnetoencephalography (MEG) technique in order to further discover the nature of the auditory AB.
Effects of multiple source characteristics on word and speaker recognition: An ERP study - Sandra Campeanu, Dr. Fergus Craik and Dr. Claude Alain
Context reinstatement has been shown to facilitate word and source recognition. In an auditory ERP experiment, participants performed both recognition tasks with words spoken in four voices. Two voice parameters varied between speakers, with the possibility that none, one or two of these parameters was congruent between study and test. Results indicate that reinstating the study voice at test facilitates both word and speaker memory, compared with no benefit when only one voice parameter is similar. This implies that voices are encoded as acoustic patterns rather than as the sum of their vocal attributes. ERPs revealed, in addition to three expected memory-related modulations, a pre-recollection positivity associated with this reinstatement benefit in both tests. This positivity, likely reflecting acoustic recognition, occurred at 400ms over parietal regions in the word test and started as early as 120ms and 175ms over right frontal and right temporal areas, respectively, in the speaker test.
Speaker Identity in Memory: Exploring the Nature of Voice Reinstatement at Test - Sandra Campeanu, Dr. Fergus Craik, Dr. Claude Alain
In a previous study we found evidence that voice information is encoded as a whole, rather than as the sum of its acoustic parts. In a follow-up study we are now investigating the effect of attention allocation on the representation of voice in memory, both implicitly and explicitly. The purpose of this work is to discern whether voices, like faces, are distinctively processed by their corresponding sensory system.
Dissociable Changes in Auditory Evoked Responses for Speech Identification Performance and Task Repetition - Boaz Ben-David, Sandra Campeanu, Kelly Tremblay and Claude Alain
Auditory perceptual learning, which is accompanied by rapid changes in sensory and response pathways, is a fundamental process central to speech perception, yet the neural mechanisms underlying auditory learning remain poorly understood. Here, we report rapid physiological changes in the human auditory system that coincide with learning. During a one hour test session, participants learned to identify two consonant-vowel syllables that differed in voice-onset-time (VOT). They also carried out a simple tone identification task to determine if changes in auditory evoked potentials were specific to the trained speech cue or whether they simply reflect task repetition. The ability to identify the speech sounds improved from the first to the fourth block of trials as revealed by higher d prime while beta measures remained constant throughout the experiment. This behavioural improvement coincided with a decrease in N1 and P2 amplitude and these learning-related changes differed from those observed during tone identification task, which did not yield changes in performance. Training-induced changes in sensory evoked responses were followed by a decreased in sustained activity over the parietal regions that was specific to the speech sounds. The results are consistent with a top-down non-specific attention effect on neural activity during learning, as well as a more learning-specific modulation, which is coincident with behavioural improvements in speech identification.
Recording auditory evoked potentials to speech sounds in cochlear implant listeners - Lendra Friesen and Terry Picton
An objective physiological demonstration of hearing in individuals with cochlear implants would be extremely useful in device fitting and monitoring auditory perceptual performance. This is especially true in the pediatric cochlear implant population because it is often difficult to assess how well the child with an implant is processing sounds. A major problem with recording the brains response to sound in these participants is the electrical artifact generated by the implant as it processes sound and stimulates auditory nerve fibers. This artifact can overlap the neural response and make measurements difficult.
The goal of this research is an artifact-free measure of the brain’s response to sound in participants with cochlear implants. We shall first examine how cortical responses in listeners with cochlear implants respond to speech syllables and tones at different inter-stimulus intervals (ISIs). The scalp-recorded P1-N1-P2 response will then be measured in 30 individuals with normal hearing and in 30 listeners with cochlear implants. Based on previous research, we hypothesize that the amplitude of the N1 response will increase with increasing ISI in both groups. However, the cochlear implant artifact will remain the same for all ISIs. Brain electric source analysis (BESA) will be then be used to model the activity in the auditory cortex of both groups of participants and to explain the electrical artifact generated by the cochlear implant. We hypothesize that we shall be able to separate out the activity generated by the implant and by the brain using both BESA and the ISI stimulation paradigm.
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