This collaborative research program investigates processes underlying the formation and tuning of complex sound categories. The overall goal is to provide a model of auditory categorization that can be readily applied to challenges of speech perception and communication disorders. Language learners form (phonetic) auditory categories of native-language sounds from the distributions of experienced speech sounds produced by many talkers. However, these averaged categories may not be appropriate for the speech produced by a specific talker. For example, non-native speech may not adhere to the patterns typical of native speakers.
The aim of the current project is to develop and test a theoretical and practical model of how listeners use context to normalize, or tune, speech perception to the characteristics of a particular listening situation. The proposed experiments will move the model beyond mere demonstrations of normalization to make quantitative predictions of performance as a function of the content and temporal extent of the context. Such a practical model can be used to develop signal processing strategies for hearing aids and implants as well as to predict intelligibility of disordered speech. Building on the empirical outcomes of the previous project, the present research tests predictions arising from the hypothesis that a general auditory mechanism sensitive to the spectral interactions that occur between context and target sounds can account quantitatively for patterns of speech perception that appear to require extraction of vocal-tract-specific talker information. Another set of experiments will test the influence of perceptual learning of talker-specific patterns of speech in supporting this mechanism. A final series of experiments will bridge the gap that often exists between tests of speech perception phenomena and understanding real-world speech intelligibility and comprehension. Such a linkage is critical for deriving theory- and evidence-based clinical approaches in treatment of communication disorders.

Public Health Relevance

Public health requires therapies developed based on detailed knowledge of the underlying mechanisms. Understanding how listeners encode the complex acoustic structure of speech across many talkers is critical to developing and evaluating therapies for individuals affected with language processing disorders, hearing impairment and developmental disorders like autism.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01DC004674-11
Application #
8413771
Study Section
Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
Program Officer
Shekim, Lana O
Project Start
2001-09-01
Project End
2016-01-31
Budget Start
2013-02-01
Budget End
2014-01-31
Support Year
11
Fiscal Year
2013
Total Cost
$308,997
Indirect Cost
$57,232
Name
Carnegie-Mellon University
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
052184116
City
Pittsburgh
State
PA
Country
United States
Zip Code
15213
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Schertz, Jessamyn; Cho, Taehong; Lotto, Andrew et al. (2015) Individual differences in phonetic cue use in production and perception of a non-native sound contrast. J Phon 52:183-204
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Gabay, Yafit; Holt, Lori L (2015) Incidental learning of sound categories is impaired in developmental dyslexia. Cortex 73:131-43

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