28. May 2017

Prof. Dr. Jonas Obleser

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The renewed interest in neural oscillations and the methodological advances in characterising them has flooded us with empirical results. A clear pattern of frequency-to-function assignment is yet to emerge, however: It remains tempting to speak of brain rhythms like neuroimaging enthusiasm made us speak of brain regions fifteen years ago (“The superior temporal sulcus does X”, and “theta does Y”). In my view, it is not only foreseeably wrong but also unnecessary that speech and language science repeat these same mistakes as we venture deeper into analysing and interpreting electrophysiological signals in the time–frequency domain. For this workshop, I would like to discuss (and exemplify using the attentive, speech-comprehending brain) how a more parsimonious, neurophysiologically grounded framework should at least help us in avoiding some of these epistemological traps. While trying not to fall prey to the criticism outlined above, I will aim at synthesising evidence from our and other labs on how attentive listening and speech comprehension in all likelihood manifests in at least two, distinct processing modes or patterns: Slow-oscillatory “entrainment” (presented alongside a more careful definition of what we should denote by that and what not) trading off against faster (alpha/beta) “modulation”, or goal-driven inhibition.