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Michigan State UniversityCognitive Science Program

Speech is special and language is structured

Dr. David Poeppel, New York University and Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics

Monday, April 3 at 5:30 p.m., 118 Psychology

Abstract

I discuss recent (quite fun and straightforward) experiments that focus on general questions about the cognitive science and neural implementation of speech and language. I come to (currently) unpopular conclusions about both domains. Based on a first set of experiments, using fMRI and exploiting the temporal statistics of speech, I argue for the existence of a speech-specific processing stage that implicates a particular neuronal substrate (the superior temporal sulcus) that has the appropriate sensitivity and selectivity for speech. Based on a second set of experiments, using MEG, I outline neural mechanisms that can form the basis for more abstract, structural processing. The results demonstrate that, during listening to connected speech, cortical activity at different time scales is entrained concurrently to track the time course of linguistic structures at different hierarchical levels. The results demonstrate syntax-driven, internal construction of hierarchical linguistic structure via entrainment of hierarchical cortical dynamics. The conclusions — that speech is special and language syntactic-structure-driven — provide neurobiological provocations to the prevailing view that speech perception is ‘mere' hearing and that language comprehension is ‘mere' statistics.

Suggested Reading

Overath, T., McDermott, J. H., Zarate, J. M., & Poeppel, D. (2015). The cortical analysis of speech-specific temporal sturcture reeealed by responses to sount quilts. Nature Neuroscience. [pdf]

Ding, N., Melloni, L., Zhang, H., Tian, X., & Poeppel, D. (2016). Cortical tracking of hierarchical linguistic structures in connected speech. Nature Neuroscience. [pdf]

MSU CogSci in the News and Announcements

11.1.2016
Dr. Mark Becker has published five papers so far this year in Perception,Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance,Packaging Technology and Science,Visual Cognition, and Applied Ergonomics.

10.3.2016
Sunpreet Arora and Anil Jain were part of a team that won Best Paper at BioSig 2016 for their paper titled "3D Whole Hand Targets: Evaluating Slap and Contactless Fingerprint Readers".

10.3.2016
Dr. Anil Jain was part of a team that won Best Poster at BioSig 2016 for a poster titled "Advances in Capturing Child Fingerprints: A High Resolution CMOS Image Sensor with SLDR Method".

9.27.2016
Dr. Anil Jain and Dr. Arun Ross were awarded a three-year NSF grant under the Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program for their proposal entitled "Imparting Privacy to Biometric Data in Cyberspace".

9.25.2016
Dr. Arun Ross (with Dr. Nasir Memon, NYU) was awarded a three-year NSF grant for their project entitled "The Master Print: Investigating and Addressing Vulnerabilities in Fingerprint-based Authentication Systems".

8.8.16
Science writer Carl Sherman's story on stuttering for the Dana Foundation website, titled Seeking Clues to Stuttering Deep Within the Brain, featured research by Prof. Devin McAuley.

Summer 2016
Dr. Mark Becker was invited by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to present his work investigating individual differences in cognition and personality that predict rare target detection at their Workshop on Developing Personnel Selection Tools for Forensic Scientists.

Summer 2016
Prof. Mark Reimers and colleague Bruce McNaughton received an NSF grant to study the dynamics of hippocampal-cortical communication during memory formation and recall.

Summer 2016
Prof. Susan Ravizza became a senior editor for the journal Brain Research.

Summer 2016
Prof. Mark Reimers received a Templeton Foundation grant to study the molecular coherence of genetic variants related to behavioral traits, including IQ.

2.19.16
Prof. Kim Fenn did an interview with Michigan Radio about the link between sleep deprivation and false confessions. You can listen to the story here.

2.15.16
Prof. Devin McAuley and colleagues' research on stuttering has been featured in a piece by WLNS. You can watch the video and read the story here.

2.10.16
Prof. Kim Fenn and colleagues recently had their sleep deprivation and false confession study featured in Time magazine, CBS news, IFLS, and on the subreddit /r/news.

2.1.16
Prof. William Hartmann and colleagues published their study "Transaural experiments and a revised duplex theory for the localization of low-frequency tones" in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

10.1.15
Prof. Carol Myers-Scotton, adjunct professor in MSU's linguistics department, published a chapter in The Cambridge handbook of bilingual processing titled "Cross-language asymmetries in code-switching patterns, implications for bilingual language profuction."

9.8.15
Prof. Susan Ravizza's recent work on students' technology use in the classroom was featured in an article on Healthline.

9.1.15
Prof. Mark Reimers is leading an NSF-funded working group on data analysis for the new BRAIN technologies.

8.28.15
Prof. Jeremy Gray was co-author on a recent publication in Science, “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science”.

8.24.15
Recent graduate Mina Hirzel was awarded the Baggett Fellowship, a one year post-baccalaureate research fellowship at the University of Maryland, College Park. Mina was an undergraduate researcher in the MSU Language Acquisition Lab for two and a half years.

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