Lab Director: Dr. Chris Heffner
The CSPAN Lab is located at 101 Cary Hall, University at Buffalo, South Campus. We investigate how speech perception changes in tricky situations.
If you’ve ever used an automated voice recognition system, like the ones that process you through customer support on the phone, you have a sense of how hard it is to understand the speech of someone else. If we can’t teach a machine to do it, how is it that we humans can understand sentences spoken at a rate of about 300 words per minute? As if life couldn’t get more challenging, speech changes, too. Speaker-by-speaker and dialect-by-dialect, people don’t all speak in the same way. Our research focuses on plasticity in speech perception. In particular, our lab looks at learning and adaptation. We learn new phonetic categories when we learn a new language. We adapt to variation in the speech of others in our native language. These two processes require our brain to be plastic, to change with experience. Our lab studies how it does that, and what happens when brains aren’t working properly.
Much of our research involves behavioral tasks. Basically, we bring people into the lab and have them do simple tasks where they learn new categories or write down sentences. We are interested in working with a few different populations, including healthy younger adults, healthy older adults, people with Parkinson’s Disease, and people with cochlear implants. To engage with the community, we are partnered with museums in the area that we travel to and conduct studies.