Neuroengineering Seminar

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Communicating in everyday settings depends on the ability to focus selectively on important signals and ignore competing sounds. To do this effectively, you must be able to both segregate the desired signal from the sound mixture and direct attention to that segregated signal. Recently, we have found that even healthy young listeners with normal hearing thresholds differ greatly in their ability to selectively listen to target speech embedded in competing speech. I will review these results, and present data suggesting that large individual differences can arise from differences in the fidelity with which supra-threshold sound is encoded, which are not detected in the audiogram, and / or from differences in the ability to engage pre-frontal cortical networks to modulate sensory responses. Moreover, poor supra-threshold sensory coding in healthy young adults may be an early indicator of noise-induced hearing loss. I will also show results implicating auditory-biased regions in prefrontal cortex in controlling selective auditory attention. Our results in healthy young adults have lead us to explore how well blast-exposed veterans with mild traumatic brain injury can perform on selective attention tasks, as they are not only likely to suffer from noise exposure, but also have cortical damage that interferes with selective auditory attention.

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham trained as an electrical engineer (Brown University, Sc.B.; MIT, M.S. and Ph.D.). She is the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology (CompNet), a Boston University research center uniting more than 40 faculty members across three colleges. Her research on attention, auditory perception, and spatial hearing has lead to recognition from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Whitaker Foundation, and the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows program, as well as support from NIDCD, NSF, ONR, AFOSR, and other agencies. Within Boston University, she is Director and PI of the NSF-sponsored CELEST Science of Learning Center. Active in many professional societies, she currently is serving as Vice-President-Elect of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and has served as Chair of the AUD NIH study section, Member of Executive Council of the ASA and as Associate Editor for the Journal of the Associate for Research in Otolaryngology. She is a Fellow of the ASA, a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers, and a lifetime National Associate of the National Research Council "in recognition of extraordinary service to the National Academies in its role as advisor to the Nation in matters of science." She oversees an active research group that uses behavioral, neuroimaging, and computational methods to understand auditory attention, a topic on which she lectures at conferences and symposia around the world.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Floyd Wood
  • Created: 05/30/2014
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 04/13/2017


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