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Spontaneous Neural Activity and Human Auditory Perception


"Humans are remarkably good at perceiving relevant sounds in a variety of background conditions. My research plan is focused on understanding how the neural systems supporting human auditory perception dynamically reorganize to optimize for efficient proc essing of sounds in various behavioral contexts. Specifically, I would like to study the rapid attentional mechanisms involved in auditory classification of tones and tone sweeps. I propose to address these questions using combined electroencephalograp hy (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), a non-invasive human brain imaging technique pioneered by the host institution, that offers excellent temporal resolution and improved sensitivity and spatial resolution. In this study, human subjects will be ask ed to categorize whether a tone sweep is high or low in average frequency, or whether the sweep was ascending or descending in pitch. Simultaneous MEG recording of brain activity, co-registered with subsequent anatomical MRI scans, will be used to assess whether dynamic variation in the spatio-temporal patterns of brain activity preceding stimulus presentation can be used to predict of successful categorization. Presuming these determinants can be characterized, in subsequent experiments, auditory stimuli will be delivered following the onset of patterns of spontaneous brain activity that previously predicted correct categorization. The proposed studies offer a novel approach to probing the relevance of spontaneous patterns of neural activity for percepti on. This project offers a unique opportunity for me to complement my experience in cellular neurophysiology by acquiring skills in human psychophysiology from world-renowned experts. In combining multiple imaging techniques with psychophysics and advanc ed computational analysis, I will establish a collaborative framework for achieving my career goals of conducting parallel studies of auditory attention in humans and animal model systems."

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