Auditory-motor interaction in the ageing brain

 

Lab rotation project description

Over the course of the lab rotation, you will be introduced to brain stimulation, brain imaging and behavioural experiments in humans on the basis of ongoing experiments:

  • brain stimulation: you will be introduced to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and how it can be used to investigate neural mechanisms of perception and cognition. You will learn to stimulate the different areas of the motor cortex (e.g., lip and hand representations) and record motor-evoked potential from the target muscles using electromyography (EMG).
  • brain imaging: you will be introduced to electroencephalography (EEG) and how it can be used to investigate neural mechanisms of perception and cognition. You will learn to record and analyse EEG data.
  • behavioural tests: you will be introduced to various tests that can be used to investigate perception and cognition. You will learn to run experiments and analyse the data.

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Research theme

MCO

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2nd supervisor


BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnerships
 

Linked PhD Project Outline

Difficulty in understanding speech in noisy environment is a common problem in older adults. This difficulty results from age-related peripheral hearing loss and decline of neural mechanisms that support speech perception. The proposed project will focus on the effects of aging and hearing loss on auditory and motor systems and their interaction during speech processing. 

Evidence shows that auditory-motor interactions contribute to phonemic categorization of speech sounds in young adults. The motor system is also likely to contribute to the generation of temporal predictions that support auditory processing of continuous rhythmic signals like speech. It has been proposed that upregulation of the motor processes can compensate for the decline of auditory processes in older adults. Our recent study shows, however, that older adults with hearing loss within the speech frequency range (up to 4 kilohertz) show a reduction in recruitment of the motor system during listening to continuous speech signals, which may contribute to their speech perception difficulties.

The specific research questions will be determined depending on your interests. The project has two main objectives:

  • to determine how aging and peripheral hearing loss affect auditory-motor speech processing. We will investigate speech processing in the young adults with normal hearing and in older adults with normal and impaired hearing in the speech-frequencies (up to 4 kilohertz). Importantly, we will simulate hearing loss in participants with normal hearing in order to match the auditory input with participants with hearing loss. We will collect a large data set (including 60 young adults and 120 older adults) using a variety of complementary methods: electroencephalography (EEG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and behavioural tests. These techniques will allow us to measure speech processing in auditory and motor systems and address the contribution of the motor system to auditory speech processing.
  • to determine whether auditory-motor speech training can strengthen auditory-motor speech processing in the older adults with speech-frequency hearing loss and improve speech perception in noise. We will also test whether non-invasive brain stimulation can boost the efficacy of auditory-motor training. The hearing problems in older adults are typically treated with hearing aids, which amplify the acoustic signals. They do not however always improve speech perception in noise. Therefore, novel interventions that target the brain mechanisms that support speech processing in the aging brain are needed.

The population of the U.K. is aging rapidly and it has been estimated that 60% of over 65 year olds have a hearing impairment. Investigation of age-related decline of speech perception and development of new rehabilitation programs are important, because communication difficulties can lead to social isolation, depression and cognitive decline. The ability of communicate effectively and effortlessly is essential for heathy and happy late adulthood.

 

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Doctoral Training Programme

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Tel: +44 (0) 115 8466946
Email: bbdtp@nottingham.ac.uk