Invited Talk – Tobias Reichenbach: Decoding the neural processing of speech, June 2nd, 2021, 10 AM CET

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It’s great pleasure to welcome Prof. Dr. Tobias Reichenbach to FAU as a new professor after running a successful lab at Imperial College London!

Title: Decoding the neural processing of speech
Date: June 2nd, 2021, 10 AM CET

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.

Short Bio: Prof. Dr. Tobias Reichenbach (MSc Physics, Leipzig University; PhD Physics, LMU Munich) leads a research group on Sensory Neuroengineering at the Friedrich-Alexander-University (FAU) in Erlangen-Nuremberg. He previously worked with Kavli-Prize winner Prof. A. J. Hudspeth at the Rockefeller University, New York, and led a research group at Imperial College London. His multidisciplinary research combines methods from artificial intelligence with computational neuroscience and neuroimaging to advance our understanding of the neural processing of complex natural signals, with applications in medicine and technology. He has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, some of which have appeared in leading multidisciplinary journals such as Nature, Neuron and PNAS. Dr. Reichenbach is a Reviewing Editor for eLife, a renowned journal in the life sciences.