auditory neuroscience
...in context

Welcome to the pecka lab

We study mechanisms and circuits by which the brain selectively codes and processes sounds of interest under naturalistic conditions. 


How do we listen to a person of interest in a crowd? 

We often encounter sounds from many sources at once, yet our brain unravels this mix of sensory inputs into distinct information streams. This “auditory scene analysis” (ASA) is fundamental in our everyday life.

However, comprehensive insight into how our brains achieve ASA is still sparse.

Hearing impairment, which is the most frequent sensory deficit today, is highly detrimental to ASA. Consequently, many – especially elderly – people are deprived of this vital ability. Yet ASA cannot be restored by the use of current therapeutic devices such as electrical cochlear implants (CIs).

To gain a functional understanding of the neural mechanisms of ASA and to overcome current technological limitations, the lab implements complementary, innovative experimental techniques and paradigms.

To find out more about our research or view our publications, please use the links in the text on the right-hand column or the menu above.

 

The current projects in the lab are:

  • SONIC SCENESHow do neural circuits process and represent behaviorally meaningful sound sources during natural self-motion? In everyday life, our ears are flooded with sounds from multiple sources while we actively explore the environment. To be able to listen selectively to one concurrently relevant sound source our brain must identify the relevant source of origin and track their location while we continuously move our head and/or body. The functional understanding of the underlying mechanisms and circuits has remained elusive, not the least because an experimental paradigm to study neuronal processing of sensory input during self-motion was lacking. Using our new behavioral paradigm SIT (Ferreiro, Amaro et al., 2020), we perform multi-channel wireless chronic recordings in auditory cortex during active listening. On a general level, SIT allows us studying the role of context-specificity (e.g. relevance)  for neuronal processing during ASA.
  • spa-CI-al: We investigate synaptic and cellular mechanisms of spatial processing in individual neurons in the rodent brain stem. We also compare to what extent the apparent dissimilarities in spatial sensitivity between normal and CI-based hearing underlie central processing inefficiencies or arise already on the input level, i.e. are due to differences in the peripheral activation patterns.