Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Perception of multidimensional speech sounds in humans and songbirds

Do humans and zebra finches share cognitive mechanisms that are important for speech perception?

2015 - 2019
NWO-Gravity (Zwaartekracht) program ‘Language in Interaction’ NWO-Gravity (Zwaartekracht) program ‘Language in Interaction’

Prof. Dr. Carel ten Cate

Prof. Dr. Jean Vroomen, Tilburg University

Prof. Dr. Elia Formisano, Maastricht University

Humans are remarkably skilled at extracting various types of information from the speech signal, such as phonemic categories and speaker identity. Unclear is whether these dimensions are represented in different higher-order modules; whether and how these modules affect basic aspects of categorization; and whether these properties are unique to human speech perception or represent a more general property also present in non-human animals, which was utilized for the evolution of human speech.

Scientific relevance

Humans can categorize spoken words for example based on vowel or speaker identity. We study zebra finches in order to find out whether this is a general auditory mechanisms that more non-human species have or a language-specific trait. This project will provide new insides about the nature and origin of the processes by which humans extract and categorize information from speech.


In Maastricht, I will run functional MRI experiments on humans to investigate whether these dimensions are represented in different higher-order brain areas and how these areas affect basic aspects of categorization.

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