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Plasticity of spatial processing in normal and cochlear implant hearing

Project Acronym: SPACI
Duration: 01/01/2017-31/12/2018
Project ID: DS-2016-0026
Call identifier: APVV – DS 2016
Topic: Multilateral scientific and technological cooperation in the Danube region


Spatial hearing allows us to localize sound sources, to understand speech in noisy environments, to orient in space, and to enjoy music. Cochlear implants (CIs) and auditory displays (ADs) are prosthetic devices that can dramatically improve the quality of life for people with sensory impairment (the deaf and the blind, respectively). The algorithms implemented in these tools rely heavily on our understanding of auditory processing in electric (cochlear implant) and normal (acoustic) hearing, which is particularly limited in the domain of spatial auditory processing. The goal of the current project is to test several novel hypotheses about the mechanisms of electric and acoustic spatial hearing. Specifically, the current project proposes to perform a series of behavioral studies combined with computational modeling to examine the bottom-up and top-down mechanisms of spatial hearing. Specifically, the perception of interaural time and level differences (important for horizontal sound localization) will be examined, as well as the visually-induced plasticity of relative weighting of these sound localization cues. These results will considerably advance the current understanding of the mechanisms of spatial auditory perception. They have the potential to significantly improve the prosthetic devices for the deaf (CIs), the assistive devices for the blind (ADs), as well as other virtual reality auralization technologies, and biologically-inspired systems for sound localization. Finally, this project will provide a framework for establishing a new collaboration between unique labs in Austria, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, for exchange of young scientists, and for preparation of large collaborative proposals.

Bernhard Laback, Austrian Academy of Sciences.
Petr Maršálek, Charles University.