The Auditory Lab

at Carnegie Mellon University

 

ONGOING RESEARCH

         



IMPROVING SPATIAL NAVIGATION USING SOUND


We are collaborating with professors in Electrical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon with the aim of improving human spatial navigation using sound. Echoes provide important acoustic information about the environment that is extremely effective for the navigation of certain animals (e.g., bats and dolphins). Because echoes are complex, humans do not normally use echolocation; however, echo information is in fact utilized by some blind people. We are harnessing technology in order to make echo information accessible to many more of the blind by helping them to learn to use echoes. Depending on individual preferences and needs, the learning can focus on using the echoes that occur in nature or it can focus on the use of a handheld device that enhances the echo information. In the Auditory Lab we are focusing on discovering the human sensitivity to echo information and how this can be extended to help design and improve training programs and devices.  

Collaborators: Prof. Pulkit Grover and Prof. Bruno Sinopoli, ECE, CMU.

Funding: Google, CMU undergraduate research training award.

If you are interested in participating, click HERE.


AUDIO-MOTOR PRIMING


We are exploring a new form of auditory-motor priming. Motor priming exists if an action is performed more rapidly after the presentation of facilitating cues than after the presentation of interfering cues. We hypothesized that environmental sounds could be used as cues to create motor priming. To create facilitation, we devised a congruent priming sound that was similar to the sound that would be made by the gesture that was about to be performed. To create interference, we devised an incongruent sound that would not normally be made by the gesture that was about to be performed. Using this paradigm we found evidence of auditory-motor priming between environmental sounds and simple gestures. Additionally, we found evidence for auditory-motor priming over a range of conditions.


NEURAL BASIS OF SOUND IDENTIFICATION


We are investigating the cognitive neuroscience of the auditory system's ability to identify the causes of sounds. The experimental question we are addressing is which neural networks are preferentially activated when subjects shift the focus of their attention toward different aspects of the source of sounds.

 
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