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Spatial Attention and Listening in Complex Environments

Duration: 10/2013-3/2017.
Grant: APVV-0452-12.

Project summary:

Spatial hearing is important for normal everyday function in humans. It allows us to localize useful and dangerous sounds in the environment and to hear our speech stimuli in complex environments. This proposal aims to study how humans use spatial auditory processing to select and attend to one target in complex multi-talker acoustic environments. Attention is the mechanism that the brain uses to allocate processing resources to various cognitive tasks. In the project, we propose to perform series of behavioral experiments and computational studies to explore how humans use spatial auditory attention (1) to localize a single talker in a multitalker environment, and (2) to process speech of a talker in a multitalker environment. The main goal of the project is to examine how the attention-related sound localization processing interacts with speech perception processing in these tasks. I. e., we will study the extent to which localization is important for guiding attention in speech processing tasks, or vice versa, the extent to which accuracy of auditory localization judgements is conditioned on correct extraction of acoustic features necessary to create speech objects. The results are critical for our understanding of how normal-hearing listeners use spatial perception and attention in complex environments, for the development of prosthetic devices for the hearing impaired, and for the development of virtual reality audio systems.