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Research theme


We use neuroimaging to ask:

How the brain:

  • Makes sense of the acoustic world
  • Organises incoming acoustic information
  • Distinguishes different sounds (e.g. pitch and rhythm)
  • Extracts important sounds and ignores background noise
  • Integrates sequences of sounds (over time) into patterns (e.g. melodies)
  • Holds sounds in memory and compares them to new sounds
  • Differs in patients with hearing loss

How we:

  • Perceive and interpret the sounds around us
  • React when we hear unexpected sounds
  • Keep sounds in memory


  • Sound processing goes wrong in neurological (e.g. stroke and dementia) and psychiatric (e.g. schizophrenia) disorders (e.g. why people with Alzheimer’s disease may become disorientated in complex auditory environments
  • Hearing impairments (e.g. tinnitus) can be treated

Our goal is to provide:

An understanding of the brain systems used for auditory cognition that will allow us to improve assessments, diagnoses and treatments for those with hearing difficulties.



In the future, we will be able to design new hearing aids that are linked to brain measurement devices. These brain devices can read sounds that a person is focused on and interested in listening to, leading to hearing aids behaving more like our normal auditory systems.

Our research into the neural mechanisms underlying hearing aims to benefit patients with:

  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • People who suffer from hallucinations

Recent work

  • Grouping sound patterns from background noise (figure-ground separation) is linked to activity in high-level auditory cortex (rostral belt and parabelt; Schneider et al., 2019)
  • The ability to group basic auditory stimuli (figure-ground separation) is related to the ability to understand spoken sentences when realistic noise is present (Holmes et al., 2019)
  • Functional connectivity between the auditory cortex and both the hippocampus and the inferior frontal cortex increases when people hold a sound in memory (Kumar et al., 2016)
  • The auditory dorsal stream is involved in auditory motion analysis (Poirier et al., 2017)
  • Neural phase locking predicts the blood-oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in human auditory cortex (Oya et al., 2018)
  • The auditory cortices of humans and rhesus macaques show similar responses to the pitch of a broadband sound (Kikuchi et al., 2019)
  • Misophonia—an affective sound-processing disorder in which people experience strong negative emotions (e.g., anger and anxiety) in response to everyday sounds—is associated with atypical functional connectivity of the anterior insula (Kumar et al., 2017)

Teams in this research area