New paper on transfer of learning as a function of the task dynamic by Andrew

Andrew has a new paper in press at Experimental Brain Research. It only took two years, two journals and 5 rounds of review!

Snapp-Childs, W., Wilson, A. D. & Bingham, G. P. Transfer of learning between unimanual and bimanual rhythmic movement coordination: Transfer is a function of the task dynamic. Experimental Brain Research. Download

In this paper we successfully predict transfer of learning and explain the details of how that learning transferred using Bingham’s task dynamical model of coordinated rhythmic movement. This is actually a bit of a big deal; predicting transfer ahead of time is a notoriously tricky problem.

Upcoming PhD Opportunities in the Lab 2015

We are looking for PhD students interested in working with us on projects related to our ecological embodied cognition programme (Andrew, Sabrina; see our blog for details) and the neuroscience of creativity and imagination (Anna; see her web page). We have some specific projects in mind (e.g. the ones listed here) and will likely advocate for one of these more focused projects, but we are always interested in developing suitable projects with motivated students so long as they align with the work in the lab.

Facilities here at Leeds Beckett include Matlab and the Psychtoolbox (for programming and analysing experiments), Pro Reflex cameras, tablets and Wii Fit boards (for motion tracking and data capture) and trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We have access to a dedicated lab for data collection as well as other rooms booked on-demand.

Interested students should have or anticipate having the equivalent of a UK 1st undergraduate degree in Psychology or relevant discipline. Funding for these positions is being finalised, and we will have more details soon.

Any questions or comments, please contact us! We look forward to hearing from you.

Andrew (a.d.wilson@leedsbeckett.ac.uk), Sabrina (s.golonka@leedsbeckett.ac.uk) and Anna (a.g.abraham@leedsbeckett.ac.uk)

Guest Speaker, May 6th – Patti Adank, ‘How does the brain process variation in speech?’

We are hosting Dr Patti Adank from UCL (Twitter, web page) who will present a seminar entitled ”How does the brain process variation in speech?’ on Wednesday, 6 May 2015 from 3-4.30pm. You can register to attend here. The seminar is sponsored by the Leeds Beckett Centre for Applied Social Research (@CeASR_Leeds).

Abstract

I will give a short overview of the current research and dominant models of speech perception in challenging listening conditions, and will present the results from two TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) studies that have been run in our lab. Recent functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) studies have implicated speech motor areas in perception of, as well as in perceptual adaptation to, distorted speech signals. The involvement of speech motor areas during speech perception has been verified in a series of TMS experiments. Nonetheless, exactly how motor regions support perception and the mechanisms involved in this process remains unclear.

There are two views on how the motor system could support perception. Both posit that listeners mentally imitate/simulate others’ actions during speech perception to aid understanding, thus explaining why motor cortex is active during perception. However, these views differ in their predictions on which conditions maximally recruit motor cortex. One predicts that there is greater recruitment when speech perception is challenging, such as when speech is distorted. The other predicts that motor recruitment is greatest when perception is easiest. We aimed to disambiguate between these predictions in two TMS experiments in which we measured Motor Evoked Potentials (MEPs), as they can probe excitability of the primary motor cortex (M1).

In the first experiment, we stimulated M1 lip and hand areas and recorded MEPs in the associated peripheral muscles, to test if MEPs were greater when listening to undistorted versus distorted VCV (vowel-consonant-vowel) stimuli. We also used a place-of-articulation contrast to confirm if the effect was modulated in an articulator-specific manner. Finally, we compared individual differences in MEPs to a behavioural measure (identification) of speech perception. In the second experiment, we evaluated MEPs in lip M1 in response to listening to two types of distorted speech signals: a motor distortion (unclearly articulated speech) and an energetic masking distortion (added background noise) and compared these MEPs with those recorded for listening to undistorted speech. Consistent with the first view of motor involvement in speech perception, we found that lip motor excitability was increased when listening to distorted relative to clear speech. The second study showed that motor cortex excitability was not selective to any particular source of degradation, and acts via a distortion-general mechanism. These findings indicate that increased activity of speech motor cortex serves to support and facilitate speech perception under challenging conditions, and this relationship may be enhanced in those who are better able to perceive speech.

New paper by Andrew on perception-action learning in older adults

Andrew has a new paper out in the open access journal PLoS ONE looking at perception-action learning in healthy older adults. This paper follows on from two previous papers (Coats et al, 2012, 2014) where we identified that learning rates in a coordinated rhythmic movement task plummeted in the 50s (see this summary of the 2012 paper as well). This new paper was a collaboration with colleagues in China that tested whether the decline was due to the known changes in visual motion perception or the onset of a learning deficit with healthy ageing. The evidence in this paper supports the latter.

Ren J, Huang S, Zhang J, Zhu Q, Wilson AD, et al. (2015) The 50s Cliff: A Decline in Perceptuo-Motor Learning, Not a Deficit in Visual Motion Perception. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0121708. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121708