The study was intended to simulate the everyday experience of people who rely on cochlear implants, a surgically-implanted electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or who has severe hearing problems.
Using MRI scans of the brain, the researchers, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, identified the importance of one particular region, the angular gyrus, in decoding distorted sentences. The findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
In an ordinary setting, where background noise is minimal and a person's speech is clear, it is mainly the left and right temporal lobes that are involved in interpreting speech. However, the researchers have found that when hearing is impaired by background noise, other regions of the brain are engaged, such as the angular gyrus, the area of the brain also responsible for verbal working memory – but only when the sentence is predictable.
"In a noisy environment, when we hear speech that appears to be predictable, it seems that more regions of the brain are engaged," explains Dr Jonas Obleser, who did the research whilst based at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (ICN), UCL. "We believe this is because the brain stores the sentence in short-term memory. Here it juggles the different interpretations of what it has heard until the result fits in with the context of the conversation."
The researchers hope that by understanding how the brain interprets distorted speech, they will be able to improve the experience of people with cochlear implants, which can distort speech and have a high level of background noise.
"The idea behind the study was to simulate the experience of having a cochlear implant, where speech can sound like a very distorted, harsh whisper," says Professor Sophie Scott, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the ICN. "Further down the line, we hope to study variation in the hearing of people with implants – why is it that some people do better at understanding speech than others. We hope that this will help inform speech and hearing therapy in the future."
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The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
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The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
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