The Department of Neuroscience

The neuroscience department works primarily on the neurobiological foundations of speech perception, language processing, auditory cognition, and music, including the dimensions of aesthetic experience. The main methods employed include electrophysiological recordings using magnetoencephalography (MEG), electroencephalography (EEG), and electrocorticography (ECoG), as well as imaging studies using structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Our neuroscience-focused studies typically include a wide range of behavioral and psychophysical approaches, as well. In general, the approach is one of “methodological pluralism” – that is to say, we use the methodology is most suited to address a given question. The research questions are motivated by issues arising from neurobiology, psychology, and theoretical, computational, and psycholinguistics. 

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The neuroscience department works primarily on the neurobiological foundations of speech perception, language processing, auditory cognition, and music, including the dimensions of aesthetic experience. The main methods employed include electrophysiological recordings using magnetoencephalography (MEG), electroencephalography (EEG), and electrocorticography (ECoG), as well as imaging studies using structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Our neuroscience-focused studies typically include a wide range of behavioral and psychophysical approaches, as well. In general, the approach is one of “methodological pluralism” – that is to say, we use the methodology is most suited to address a given question. The research questions are motivated by issues arising from neurobiology, psychology, and theoretical, computational, and psycholinguistics.    

The cognitive neurosciences of language and music face empirical and theoretical challenges. Most current research, dominated by neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques, seeks to identify regions that underpin aspects of processing (such as phonology, syntax, or semantics in language; or rhythm and timbre in music). The emphasis lies primarily on localization of function and characterization of electrophysiological response properties. There exist practical challenges that arise in the context of such a research program, for example obtaining the highest resolution data to generate adequate functional anatomic maps. This “maps problem” concerns the extent to which functional anatomy ultimately satisfies the explanatory needs for perception and cognition. The neural bases of speech, language, and music are, notably, typically discussed in those terms (i.e. local brain regions, processing streams, cerebral hemispheres, cortical networks).

The second challenge is more formidable, namely how to formulate the links between neurobiology and cognition. How do we characterize the relation between the primitives (or the elementary parts) of speech, language, or music and the primitives of neurobiology? Dealing with this “mapping problem” invites the development of linking hypotheses. The cognitive sciences provide granular, theoretically motivated claims about the structure of various domains (the “primitives” or the “cognome” or the “parts list”); neurobiology, similarly, provides a parts list of the available neural structures and functions. However, explanatory connections will require crafting computationally explicit linking hypotheses at the right level of granularity.

For both the practical “maps problem” and the principled “mapping problem”, embracing interdisciplinary approaches and sources of evidence helps formulate better hypotheses to understand how the brain makes possible language and music, two of the most fundamental aspects of human experience.

News

June 10, 19:00 (CET) Dare to Know Philosophy Podcast: David talks about his work on Noam Chomsky

May 27, 0:00 midnight (CET) Rhythms of speech and rhythms of brains lecture, hosted by the Brazilian Linguistics Association (ABRALIN) 

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Artificial intelligence and 80,000 ancient Chinese poems show that constraint poetic structures aid poetry appreciation.

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Events

Virtual Lecture Recital by Stefan Litwin

Inside, Outside, Private, Public — Social Spaces in Beethoven's Piano Sonata in A Major, op. 101

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Dare To Know Podcast on Noam Chomsky

Fabian Corver's Podcast featuring Prof. David Poeppel, PhD 

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Our Research Areas

Foundations of speech perception and language comprehension

What neuronal and cognitive representations and computations form the basis for the transformation from “vibrations in the ear” (sounds) to “abstractions in the head” (words)? Successful communication using spoken language requires a speech processing system that can negotiate between the demands of auditory perception and motor outputs, on the one hand, and the representational and computational requirements of the language system, on the other.

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The temporal structure of perceptual experience

The perception of dynamically changing signals, the very basis of listening to language or music, or seeing naturalistic visual scenes, requires an analysis of the temporal information that forms (part of) the basis of such signals. What are the temporal primitives that underlie their perceptual analysis? How is incoming information temporally “sampled”? What type of temporal information is necessary to experience, say, rhythm, or syllable duration, or temporal intervals, or change in a sequence?

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Behavioral and neural foundations of aesthetic experience

This research area takes a neurobiological view of "the aesthetic granularity problem.” What are the "atoms of aesthetic experience," as viewed from human neuroscience? Experiencing a single musical note or one word is arguably too small a unit of analysis; experiencing an entire symphony or whole novel is arguably too big. What constitutes an "aesthetic primitive," from a brain’s-eye-view?

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Neural oscillations in auditory cognition, music, speech, and language

Neuronal oscillations are believed to play a role in various perceptual and cognitive tasks, including attention, navigation, memory, motor planning, and - most relevant in the context of the present work - spoken-language comprehension. The specific computational functions of neuronal oscillations are uncertain. We aim to elucidate how these ubiquitous neurophysiological attributes may underpin speech, language, and music processing.

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Predictive coding in perception and cognition

Many recent theories of perception and cognition suggest that the brain uses internal models of the world to predict forthcoming events. There exists compelling evidence from a wide range of studies that prediction occurs during language comprehension and listening to music, as well. A successful system of this type needs to predict the content of future events (‘what’) but also event timing (‘when’).

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Latest Publications

Poeppel, D., & Assaneo, M. F. (2020). Speech rhythms and their neural foundations. Nature Reviews Neuroscience,21, 322-334. doi:10.1038/s41583-020-0304-4.
PuRe

Vessel, E. A. (2020). Neuroaesthetics. In Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology. Amsterdam: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-809324-5.24104-7.
PuRe

Ghitza, O. (2020). “Acoustic-driven oscillators as cortical pacemaker”: a commentary on Meyer, Sun & Martin (2019). Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. doi:10.1080/23273798.2020.1737720.
PuRe PDF

Teng, X., Ma, M., Yang, J., Blohm, S., Cai, Q., & Tian, X. (2020). Constrained structure of ancient Chinese poetry facilitates speech content grouping. Current Biology,30(7), 1299-1305. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.059.
PuRe

Teng, X., & Poeppel, D. (2020). Theta and gamma bands encode acoustic dynamics over wide-ranging timescales. Cerebral Cortex,30(4), 2600-2614. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhz263.
PuRe

Roeske, T. C., Larrouy-Maestri, P., Sakamoto, Y., & Poeppel, D. (2020). Listening to birdsong reveals basic features of rate perception and aesthetic judgements. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences (London),287(1923): 20193010. doi:10.1098/rspb.2019.3010.
PuRe

Gudi-Mindermann, H., Rimmele, J. M., Bruns, P., Kloosterman, N. A., Donner, T. H., Engel, A. K., & Röder, B. (2020). Post-training load-related changes of auditory working memory: An EEG study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience,14: 72. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2020.00072.
PuRe PDF

Kim, S., Poeppel, D., & Overath, T. (2020). Modulation change detection in human auditory cortex: Evidence for asymmetric, non‐linear edge detection (ahead of print). European Journal of Neuroscience: European Neuroscience Association. doi:10.1111/ejn.14707.
PuRe

Giroud, J., Trébuchon, A., Schön, D., Marquis, P., Liegeois-Chauvel, C., Poeppel, D., & Morillon, B. (2020). Asymmetric sampling in human auditory cortex reveals spectral processing hierarchy. PLoS Biology,18(3): e3000207. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3000207.
PuRe PDF

Assaneo, M. F., Rimmele, J. M., Orpella, J., Ripollés, P., de Diego-Balaguer, R., & Poeppel, D. (2020). Corrigendum: The lateralization of speech-brain coupling is differentially modulated by intrinsic auditory and top-down mechanisms. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 14:2. doi:10.3389/fnint.2019.00028.
PuRe PDF

 

 

Director

David Poeppel

Prof. David Poeppel, PhD

Neurosciences

Director

+49 69 8300479-301

E-Mail

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Ep 49 - Language: Constructing Knowledge Beyond Words with Dr. David Poeppel

January 3, 2020

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David Poeppel: From Sounds to Meanings

September 8, 2019 | Brain-inspired

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Episode 15: David Poeppel on Thought, Language, and How to Understand the Brain

September 24, 2018 | Thinking

Click here for the blog post

Assistants

Anja Tydecks

Neurosciences

Assistant

+49 69 8300479-302

E-Mail

Cordula Ullah

Neurosciences

Assistant

+49 69 8300479-301

E-Mail