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Sound sense: Brain 'listens' for distinctive features in sounds

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Frances Hill
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PITTSBURGH (March 26, 2019) ... For humans to achieve accurate speech recognition and communicate with one another, the auditory system must recognize distinct categories of sounds - such as words - from a continuous incoming stream of sounds.

This task becomes complicated when considering the variability in sounds produced by individuals with different accents, pitches, or intonations.

In a recent Nature Communications paper, Shi Tong Liu, a bioengineering PhD candidate at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, details a computational model that explores how the auditory system tackles this complex task.

The research is led by Srivatsun Sadagopan, assistant professor of neurobiology, whose lab studies the perception of complex sounds in realistic listening conditions.

"A 'word' may be pronounced in different ways by different voices, but you are still able to lump all of these utterances into a category (a specific word) with a distinct meaning," said Sadagopan.

"In this study, we examined how the brain achieves this by using animal calls as a greatly simplified model system.

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Frances Hill
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