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Consolider Groups
Speech Perception, Production and Bilingualism
Cognitive Neuroscience of Auditory Perception and Attention
Group of Attention, Action and Perception
Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience
Neuropsychology and Functional Neuroimaging
Grammar and Bilingualism
 
 
 

Cognitive Neuroscience of Auditory Perception and Attention (CNAPA)

 

 

Group coordinator: Carles Escera

Group members: Maria-José Corral,    Sabine Grimm, Lavinia Slabu, Judith Domínguez-Borràs,  Jordi Costa-Faidella, Heike Althen, Mareike   Finke, Alessandro Tavano, Francisco Barceló.

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GOALS OF THE GROUP

Audition is the critical sense for human communication, and the basic neurophusiologic mechanisms implemented within the auditory sistem might be critical for language use and acquisition. Also, the auditory system has a major role in controlling the direction of attention, and in providing relevant cues for adaptive behavior, for instance, allowing executive control. Furthermore, these neurophysiologic auditory system mechanisms may become distrubed in different forms of brain disease or pathological conditions. Our goal as a group is to unravel these mechanisms mainly through of human recordings of electric (EEG) and magnetic (MEG) brain responses.

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SUBPROJECTS OF THE GROUP 

Subproject 1: Neurophysiologic mechanisms of language processing. Using the oddball strategy, which consists of presenting an auditory stimulus that breaks a series of preceding repetitive ones, and recording the brain responses to this auditory probe (i.e., the representational negativity –RN), we have started to study how the brain processes the sounds of language. In one of such studies, in collaboration with Pilar Prieto of the GB (Grammar and Bilingualism) group, we have shown that intonational contrasts differentiating statements and echo questions in Catalan elicited larger RNs than larger physical contrasts that do not cross either the statement or echo question categories (Figure 1). In a second study, we have shown that even a very short intersyllable pause of only 20 ms in a two-syllable Spanish word (such as foca) in enough to break the word-related RN (or word-related MMN), indicating that the brain is fine-tuned to the temporal dimension in integrating auditory information to build word representations.

   

Figure 1 The representational negativity (RN) to intonational contrasts that break a category. Left panel; identification rate for contrasts in 15 different steps (one semitone each) showing categorical perception. Right panel; scalp distribution of RN for contrasts 0-5, 5-10, and 10-15 showing that a similar physical contrast that crosses an intonational category elicits a much larger brain response.

Subproject 2: Disruption of executive control in schizophrenia. Schizophrenic patients have been shown to suffer from failures of cognitive control, conceptualized as an impaired ability to represent, maintain and update taskset information, although current studies argue against a generalized deficit in cognitive tasks but for impairment in early (perceptual) processes. Using a task-switching protocol that controls for sensory and task representations, and by measuring neuronal activity for different time courses of processing and either task preparation (cue-locked ERPs) or task execution (target-locked ERPs) stage, we have managed to show that schizophrenic patients present abnormalities both on gating of sensory information –as supported by attenuated N1 responses to cues, as well as disturbed higher order cognitive control processes, as supported by attenuated P2 responses to cues, mostly at the anticipatory stage of task performance.