Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Solving the 'Cocktail Party Problem': How we can focus on one speaker in noisy crowds

Date:
March 6, 2013
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
In the din of a crowded room, paying attention to just one speaker's voice can be challenging. Research demonstrates how the brain homes in on one speaker to solve this "Cocktail Party Problem." Researchers discovered that brain waves are shaped so the brain can selectively track the sound patterns from the speaker of interest while excluding competing sounds from other speakers. The findings could have important implications for helping individuals with a range of deficits.

Location of sites with signifcant LF phase-ITC (left) and HG power-ITC (right) in both conditions. The colors of the dots represent the ITC value at each site
Credit: Figure 1C, Neuron, Zion-Golumbic et al.

In the din of a crowded room, paying attention to just one speaker's voice can be challenging. Research in the March 6 issue of the Cell Press journal Neuron demonstrates how the brain homes in on one speaker to solve this "Cocktail Party Problem." Researchers discovered that brain waves are shaped so that the brain can selectively track the sound patterns from the speaker of interest and at the same time exclude competing sounds from other speakers. The findings could have important implications for helping individuals with a range of deficits such as those associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and aging.

"In hearing, there is no way to 'close your ear,' so all the sounds in the environment are represented in the brain, at least at the sensory level," explains senior author Dr. Charles Schroeder, of Columbia University's Department of Psychiatry. "While confirming this, we also provide the first clear evidence that there may be brain locations in which there is exclusive representation of an attended speech segment, with ignored conversations apparently filtered out." In this way, when concentrating hard on such an "attended" speaker, one is barely, if at all, aware of ignored speakers.

Using direct recording of brain activity in surgical epilepsy patients, who were listening to natural spoken sentences, Dr. Schroeder and Dr. Elana Zion Golumbic, also of Columbia University, and their colleagues from New York University, University of Maryland, and Hillside-Long Island Jewish found two types of effects. In and near auditory cortex, brain signals reflect both attended and ignored speech, but attended speech generates higher signal amplitudes. However, in regions of the brain involved in "higher-order processing," such as language and attention control, representation of attended speech was clear, while that of ignored speech was not detectable. Remarkably, the selective, higher-order representation is progressively refined as a sentence unfolds.

"Most studies use very simplified, unnatural stimuli to study the Cocktail Party Problem -- like brief beeps, or even brief phrases -- whereas we were able show that with appropriate techniques, we could study this problem using natural speech," says Dr. Schroeder. "This will stimulate future research to continue the study of this and related issues under rich, natural conditions. Just as importantly, the ability to directly analyze widespread brain activity patterns in surgical epilepsy patients provides an unprecedented opportunity to firmly connect the work on the Brain Activity Map at the model systems level in mice, songbirds, and nonhuman primates to the study of capacities like language and music, that may be uniquely human."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Elana M. Zion Golumbic, Nai Ding, Stephan Bickel, Peter Lakatos, Catherine A. Schevon, Guy M. Mckhann, Robert R. Goodman, Ronald Emerson, Ashesh D. Mehta, Jonathan Z. Simon, David Poeppel, Charles E. Schroeder. Mechanisms Underlying Selective Neuronal Tracking of Attended Speech at a “Cocktail Party”. Neuron, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.12.037

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Solving the 'Cocktail Party Problem': How we can focus on one speaker in noisy crowds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306134218.htm>.
Cell Press. (2013, March 6). Solving the 'Cocktail Party Problem': How we can focus on one speaker in noisy crowds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306134218.htm
Cell Press. "Solving the 'Cocktail Party Problem': How we can focus on one speaker in noisy crowds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306134218.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins