Neural Coding and Perception of Sound
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HST.723J/9.285J - Neural Coding and Perception of Sound

Spring 2012

This drawing by the Dutch psychophysicist J.F. Schouten (1969) illustrates three complementary approaches to the study of sensory systems: psychological, physiological, and computational.  This course uses all three approaches for introducing the auditory system.

Catalog Description

Neural structures and mechanisms mediating the detection, localization and recognition of sounds.  We will discuss how acoustic signals are coded by auditory neurons, the impact of these codes on behavioral performance, and the circuitry and cellular mechanisms underlying signal transformations.  Topics include temporal coding, neural maps and feature detectors, learning and plasticity, and feedback control.  General principles are conveyed by theme discussions of auditory masking, sound localization, musical pitch, cochlear implants, and auditory scene analysis.

Who should take the course?

Anyone interested in auditory perception and the underlying neural mechanisms.  The course is required for graduate students in the HST Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program.  It is also appropriate for students in Brain and Cognitive Sciences or Electrical Engineering and Computer Science with an interest in hearing.  Some familiarity with peripheral mechanisms of hearing (how the ear works) and biophysics of neurons is expected.  Appropriate prerequisites include HST.714/6.551, HST.721, 6.521J/HST.541J, or 9.04.  Students unsure of their background should consult one of the instructors.

How does the course work?

Much of the learning is done by theme discussions of scientific papers.  A block of lectures provides the background for reading the papers in each theme.  Students are expected to read all the theme papers, then each paper is presented orally to the class by one student, followed by a discussion.  At the end of a theme discussion, students write a report summarizing what they learned from the papers.  The course also includes four laboratory exercises providing hands-on experience with neurophysiological, computational, and psychophysical techniques.  


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Related Programs and Laboratories

bulletHST Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program
bulletHarvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
bullet Eaton-Peabody Laboratories, Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary
bullet Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging

Web sites about Hearing

bullet Virtual Tour of the Ear
bulletEarlab at Boston University
bulletSound demos from the Acoustical Society of America
bulletNeuroscience resources at University of Wisconsin


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