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Auditory Perception and Learning

Laboratory of Dr. Shaowen Bao


Our research goal is to understand sensory processing. The way a stimulus is processed is not static. Instead, it can be altered by experience. These adaptive changes are guided presumably by certain principles. We try to elucidate these principles by examining how experience alters sensory processing. For instance, our auditory system becomes highly specialized for processing native speech sounds in early infancy without explicit instructions. The information that instructs such unsupervised learning is believed to be embedded in the sensory input. Using developing auditory cortex of model animals, we are trying to determine what information in the acoustic input is important for normal development of sensory representations and how the cortical circuit uses the information. Sensory processing in adult animals can also be altered by perceptual learning. We study cortical sound representations in adult animals that have been trained to improve sound perception, and examine sensory perception in animals whose cortical representations have been artificially altered. By correlating representations and perception, we try to delineate the neural correlates of perception. Ultimately, we hope to extend our knowledge into unique human sensory processing, such as that of speech and music, by examining human brains.


Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, University of Arizona | 1501 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85724-5051