ear and soundwaves

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Centre for Neurotechnology seminar from Tobias Reichenbach

Friedrich-Alexander-University

Decoding the neural processing of speech

Abstract: Understanding speech in noisy backgrounds requires selective attention to a particular speaker. Humans excel at this challenging task, while current speech recognition technology still struggles when background noise is loud. The neural mechanisms by which we process speech remain, however, poorly understood, not least due to the complexity of natural speech. Here we describe recent progress obtained through applying machine-learning to neuroimaging data of humans listening to speech in different types of background noise. In particular, we develop statistical models to relate characteristic features of speech such as pitch, amplitude fluctuations and linguistic surprisal to neural measurements. We find neural correlates of speech processing both at the subcortical level, related to the pitch, as well as at the cortical level, related to amplitude fluctuations and linguistic structures. We also show that some of these measures allow to diagnose disorders of consciousness. Our findings may be applied in smart hearing aids that automatically adjust speech processing to assist a user, as well as in the diagnosis of brain disorders.

tobias reichenbachBio: Tobias Reichenbach is a Professor in the Department for Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Engineering (AIBE), Technical Faculty, Friedrich-Alexander-University (FAU) Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Prior to that he was a Reader at the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London. He joined Imperial in 2013 after postdoctoral training in computational neuroscience and the biophysics of hearing  with Prof. A. J. Hudspeth at the Rockefeller University in New York. He graduated in 2008 from the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, where he researched on theoretical aspects of non-equilibrium pattern formation and statistical physics in the group of Prof. E. Frey.

Prof Reichenbach works in sensory neuroengineering. He uses ideas from theoretical physics, mathematics, and computer science to investigate how sensory systems function. Besides furthering our understanding of the neurobiological processes, he also aims at applying his findings in the development of novel, biologically-inspired technology.


The seminar will take place via Microsoft Teams. Advance registration is required. A link and instructions on how to access the event are provided in your registration confirmation email and a reminder will be sent before the event.

There is no need to download the Microsoft Teams app if accessing the seminar via desktop or laptop as you can join via a browser, however if using a mobile device, you will need to download the Teams app in advance.

Medical photo created by kjpargeter – www.freepik.com

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