Indiana University

The Speech Research Laboratory is a part of the Psychological and Brain Sciences department at Indiana University in Bloomington.
1101 E. 10th Street
Bloomington, IN 47405

Archive for February, 2014

19th Feb 2014

Speech Research Lab Meeting – February 28 – Andrej Kral

The SRL is happy to announce a visit by our esteemed colleague Dr. Andrej Kral who heads the Laboratory of Auditory Neuroscience and Neuroprostheses. Dr. Kral is currently the Chair and Professor of Auditory Neuroscience at the Medical University of Hannover, Germany and Adjunct Professor of Cognition and Neuroscience at the University of Texas at Dallas. His lab investigates how congenital auditory deprivation (deafness) affects the microcircuitry in the auditory system. For a very recent review (and to provide context for this talk) see: Kral (2013) Auditory Critical Periods: A Review from a System’s Perspective. Neuroscience, 247 (2013) 117-133. Download here: Kral_2013_Neuroscience

In addition to Dr. Kral’s planned talk, he will be available for meetings with faculty, postdocs, and graduate students at the IU school of Medicine campus on Thursday (2/27) and here in Bloomington on Friday (2/28). Please email Terren Green ( or myself if you are interested in a one-on-one or group meeting with Dr. Kral.

The title and abstract for his talk are below, all are invited and welcome to attend.
Time/location for his talk: Psychology Conference Room 128; Friday, February 28th, 1:30pm

Title: Congenital Deafness Disrupts Top-Down Influences in the Auditory Cortex

Abstract: The available evidence shows that many basic cerebral functions are inborn. Learned, on the other hand, are representations of sensory objects that are highly individual and depend on the subject‘s experiences. Related to it, cortico-cortical interactions and the function of the cortical column depend on experience and are shaped by sensory inputs. Periods of high susceptibility to environmental manipulations are given by higher synaptic plasticity and a naive state of neuronal networks that may easily be patterned by sensory input. Adult learning, on the other hand, is characterized by weaker synaptic plasticity but the ability to control and modulate plasticity by the need of the organism through top–down interactions and modulatory systems. Congenital deafness affects the development not only by delaying it, but also by desynchronizing different developmental steps. In its ultimate consequence, congenital deafness results in an auditory system that lacks the ability to supervise early sensory processing and plasticity, but also lacks the high synaptic plasticity of the juvenile brain. Critical developmental periods result. It remains an open question whether restoring juvenile plasticity by eliminating molecular breaks of plasticity will reinstall functional connectivity in the auditory cortex and bring a new therapy for complete sensory deprivation in the future. Focus on integrative aspects of critical periods will be required to counteract the reorganization taken place in the deprived sensory system and the other affected cerebral functions by training procedures

Dr. Kral’s website with links to studies and publications:

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17th Feb 2014

Speech Research Lab Meeting – 2-21-14 – Elena Safronova

For this week’s SRL meeting we welcome Elena Safronova from the University of Barcelona. Elena is a visiting doctoral student in Isabelle Darcy’s lab, she is completing her PhD under the mentorship of  Joan Carles Mora on attention control and acoustic/phonological memory and their role in L2 phonology. Please join us in welcoming Elena, the title and abstract of her talk are below, all are invited and welcome to attend this talk.

Psychology Room 128, Friday 2/21/14, 1:30pm

Don’t be so categorical!

Role of Cognitive Skills in L2 Vowel Perception

Elena Safronova

Universitat de Barcelona

It seems that we begin life being able to perceive very fine acoustic-phonetic distinctions existing in the world’s languages (Kuhl & Rivera-Gaxiola, 2008). Then this fascinating perceptual sensitivity undergoes a rapid reorganization due to the development of cognitive skills and establishment of the first language (L1) categories, which eventually makes as become a committed to L1 speech perceiver (Conboy et al., 2008; Kuhl et al., 1992; Werker and Tees, 1984). When it comes to learning a second/foreign language (L2) later in life the attunement to the acoustic-phonetic properties of L1 sounds may hinder formation of accurate representations of L2 speech sounds, leading to the presence of foreign accent in speech production. Despite the fact that the ability to establish new phonological categories for a L2 is thought to remain intact across the life span, it is closely related to the individuals’ ability to detect acoustic-phonetic differences between L1 and L2 sounds (Flege, 1995), which in its turn may be a source of a widely observed inter-subject variation among late L2 learners. These findings call for research on cognitive mechanisms that may contribute to the  L2 speech discrimination ability.

The study I will present explores the role of acoustic memory, phonological memory and attention control in EFL learners’ discrimination of tense-lax /i:/-/?/.  The participants of the study were Spanish/Catalan (N=50, mean age = 19.96) EFL learners with average age of onset of English learning of 6.7 years old. The results were consistent with previous research, demonstrating Spanish/Catalan EFL learners’ over-reliance on duration when perceiving the target  vowel contrast (Cebrian, 2006;  Cerviño-Povedano & Mora, 2011). The participants’ acoustic memory and attention control scores significantly correlated with percentage of correctly discriminated natural and duration-neutralized stimuli, indicating that participants’ storage capacity for the acoustic information of the speech input as well as the ability to foreground/background relevant/irrelevant details were related to their vowel discrimination. Participants’ phonological memory capacity did not have any significant effect on vowel discrimination ability. The results of the study have shown that individuals with higher memory capacity for the acoustic details in speech input and higher attentional control over relevant/irrelevant acoustic information are significantly better at discriminating English tense-lax /i:/-/?/ vowels under both natural and duration-neutralized conditions than the lower ability group. Regression analyses indicated that acoustic memory and attention control accounted for 10.3% and 17.4% respectively, of the unique variance in English vowel discrimination accuracy, thus highlighting the important role of cognitive mechanisms in the re-weighting of phonetic cues and more target-like L2 speech perception.


1 Cebrian, J. (2006). Experience and the use of duration in the categorization of L2 vowels. Journal of Phonetics 34. 372-387.

2 Cerviño-Povedano, E. and Mora, J. C. (2011). Investigating Catalan learners of English over-reliance on duration: vowel cue weighting and phonological short-term memory. Dziubalska-Ko?aczyk, K., Wrembel, M. and Kul, M. (eds) Achievements and perspectives in SLA of speech: New Sounds 2010. VolumeI. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 56-64.

3 Conboy, B. T., Sommerville, J. A., Kuhl, P. K. (2008). Cognitive control factors in speech perception at 11 months. Developmental Psychology 44(5), 1505-1512.

4 Flege, J.E. (1995). Second language speech learning: theory, findings, and problems. In W. Strange (Ed) Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience: Issues in Cross-linguistic Research. Timonium, MD: York Press, pp. 229-273.

5 Kuhl P. K, Williams K. A., Lacerda F., Stevens K. N., Lindblom B. (1992). Linguistic experience alters phonetic perception in infants by 6 months of age. Science. 255:606–8.

6 Werker, J., and Tees, R. (1984). Cross-language speech perception: Evidence for perceptual reorganization during the first year of life Infant Behaviour and Development, 7, 49-63.

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13th Feb 2014

Speech Research Lab Meeting – 2-14-14 – Journal Club

This week’s SRL meeting we will be a journal club led by postdocs Angela AuBuchon and Jessica Montag. The paper we will discuss is a new Ear and Hearing e-publication ahead of print, “The Association Between Visual, Nonverbal Cognitive Abilities and Speech, Phonological Processing, Vocabulary and Reading Outcomes in Children With Cochlear Implants.”  Click here to download. All are invited and welcome to attend.

Time/place: Psychology room 128, 1:30pm, Friday 2/14/14

Title: The Association Between Visual, Nonverbal Cognitive Abilities and Speech, Phonological Processing, Vocabulary and Reading Outcomes in Children With Cochlear Implants

Authors: Lindsey Edwards and Sara Anderson

Abstract: Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the possibility that specific nonverbal, visual cognitive abilities may be associated with outcomes after pediatric cochlear implantation. The study therefore examined the relationship between visual sequential memory span and visual sequential reasoning ability, and a range of speech, phonological processing, vocabulary knowledge, and reading outcomes in children with cochlear implants. Design: A cross-sectional, correlational design was used. Sixty-six children aged 5 to 12 years completed tests of visual memory span and visual sequential reasoning, along with tests of speech intelligibility, phonological processing, vocabulary knowledge, and word reading ability (the outcome variables). Auditory memory span was also assessed, and its relationship with the other variables examined. Results: Significant, positive correlations were found between the visual memory and reasoning tests, and each of the outcome variables. A series of regression analyses then revealed that for all the outcome variables, after variance attributable to the age at implantation was accounted for, visual memory span and visual sequential reasoning ability together accounted for significantly more variance (up to 25%) in each outcome measure. Conclusions: These findings have both clinical and theoretical implications. Clinically, the findings may help improve the identification of children at risk of poor progress after implantation earlier than has been possible to date as the nonverbal tests can be administered to children as young as 2 years of age. The results may also contribute to the identification of children with specific learning or language difficulties as well as improve our ability to develop intervention strategies for individual children based on their specific cognitive processing strengths or difficulties. Theoretically, these results contribute to the growing body of knowledge about learning and development in deaf children with cochlear implants.

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