The well-known ‘Cocktail Party Problem’, encapsulate the challenge of paying attention to one speaker in a noisy environment. In the lab, we focus on three aspects of this question:
(a) Understanding how attention helps us ‘tune in’ to one speaker and ‘tune out’ everything else
(b) Investigating why some people are very good at this, and others have trouble focusing
(c) Studying the neural basis of distraction and how some ‘background’ sounds suddenly grab our attention
Studying the “Cocktail Party Problem”
When listening to music, people have an automatic response to tap, clap or move to the beat of the music, a response that is not shared by many non-human species. Research in the lab focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying the perception of music and the auditory-motor interactions that give rise to this automatic tap-to-the-beat response. We are also interested, more generally, in the ways through which rhythmic structure and temporal predictability facilitate perception and attention.
Rhythm and music perception
Research in our lab aspires to go beyond studying neural responses to brief, discrete stimuli (pictures, tones, single syllables), and to investigate how the brain encodes and processes natural speech, in simulated real-life interactions. This is a challenging scientific endevour, requiring the development of novel signal processing tools, as well as implementation of advanced graphic and stimulation technologies, such as virtual reality.