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.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Shekim, Lana O
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Carnegie-Mellon University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Holt, Lori L; Tierney, Adam T; Guerra, Giada et al. (2018) Dimension-selective attention as a possible driver of dynamic, context-dependent re-weighting in speech processing. Hear Res 366:50-64
Gabay, Yafit; Holt, Lori L (2018) Short-term adaptation to sound statistics is unimpaired in developmental dyslexia. PLoS One 13:e0198146
Roark, Casey L; Holt, Lori L (2018) Task and distribution sampling affect auditory category learning. Atten Percept Psychophys 80:1804-1822
Zhang, Xujin; Holt, Lori L (2018) Simultaneous tracking of coevolving distributional regularities in speech. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 44:1760-1779
Lehet, Matthew; Holt, Lori L (2017) Dimension-Based Statistical Learning Affects Both Speech Perception and Production. Cogn Sci 41 Suppl 4:885-912
Guediche, Sara; Fiez, Julie A; Holt, Lori L (2016) Adaptive plasticity in speech perception: Effects of external information and internal predictions. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 42:1048-59
Schertz, Jessamyn; Cho, Taehong; Lotto, Andrew et al. (2016) Individual differences in perceptual adaptability of foreign sound categories. Atten Percept Psychophys 78:355-67
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
Guediche, Sara; Holt, Lori L; Laurent, Patryk et al. (2015) Evidence for Cerebellar Contributions to Adaptive Plasticity in Speech Perception. Cereb Cortex 25:1867-77
Gabay, Yafit; Holt, Lori L (2015) Incidental learning of sound categories is impaired in developmental dyslexia. Cortex 73:131-43

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