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Max Planck Research Group “Auditory Cognition”

Group Leader

… for full list of publications of Jonas Obleser see here.
…for up-to-date CV of Jonas Obleser see here.
…the group’s newsfeed can be visited here.


With our research, we hope to foster a unique cognitive neuroscience perspective on challenging listening situations, age-related hearing loss, and the possibilities of successful adaptation to it .
Audition poses particular challenges to neuroscience: First, the “bottom-up” processes of acoustically decoding and neurally encoding the auditory signal along the central auditory pathways are not well understood. Second, humans cope surprisingly well with various sorts of occlusions, deletions, and degradations in their auditory input—in phone lines and at noisy parties, in chronic hearing damage, or, most drastically, when living with a cochlear implant.
Our group is interested in the following main questions:
How does the human brain analyse, categorise, and interpret meaningful sounds such as speech, particularly under substantial degradation?
How do contextual cues facilitate this process: Semantic context, and also simple temporal or spectral regularities of sound can shape the neural processing as well as facilitate the integration of information.
How can cognitive mechanisms effortfully compensate for degraded sound: Executive functions like working memory and cognitive control clearly support successful coping with degradation; their neural interfacing with auditory processes is unclear, however, and of particular relevance to our work.

These key questions touch on speech and hearing, psychology and neuroscience alike. We pursue them using listening and learning experiments and various methods of brain imaging.


First, we ask which brain areas within the auditory cortex, and beyond, contribute critically to the emergence of meaningful auditory and speech percepts, and how do they interact? This is investigated mainly using fMRI .
Second, we study the oscillatory brain dynamics using M/EEG to infer brain states that precede and accompany successful speech comprehension. In short, what are good indicators of facilitation and compensation in the time–frequency domain?
Third, we aim to isolate individual markers of auditory skills, cognitive ability, and brain structure that can help us predict the extent to which listeners will be able to cope with adverse listening situations.
Answers to these questions will further our knowledge on the listening brain as well as on the human faculty of speech comprehension. They will also eventually be useful in developing new approaches to the treatment of hearing disorders.


Jonas Obleser, PhD -- group leader
Molly Henry, PhD -- Post doc
Björn Herrmann, PhD -- Post doc
Alex Brandmeyer, PhD -- Post doc
Sung-Joo Lim, PhD -- Post doc
Antje Strauß, M.A. -- PhD student
Anna Wilsch, Dipl.-Psych. -- PhD student
Malte Woestmann, M.A. -- PhD student
Dunja Kunke, MSc -- lab manager
Mathias Scharinger, PhD -- Post doc
Julia Erb, MSc -- PhD student


(December 2013; from left to right: J. Erb; A.Strauß; L. Waschke; M. Woestmann [back], S. Kalinke [front]; B Herrmann; J. Obleser; M. Scharinger; M. Henry; M. Kuhlencord; D. Kunke; A. Wilsch; S. Kemmerer)


Henry M.J., Her­rmann B., & Obleser J. (2014) Entrained neural oscil­la­tions in mul­ti­ple fre­quency bands co-modulate behav­ior. PNAS. In press.
Wöstmann M., Schröger E., Obleser J. (2014) Acoustic Detail Guides Attention Allocation in a Selective Listening Task. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. In press.
Strauß A., Kotz S., Scharinger M., Obleser J. (2014) Alpha and theta brain oscil­la­tions index dis­so­cia­ble processes in spo­ken word recognition. Neu­roim­age. 2014 Apr 18.
Hartwigsen G., Golombek T., & Obleser J. (2014) Repet­i­tive tran­scra­nial mag­netic stim­u­la­tion over left angu­lar gyrus mod­u­lates the pre­dictabil­ity gain in degraded speech com­pre­hen­sion. Cor­tex. In press.
Wilsch, A., Henry, M.J., Herrmann, B., Maess, B., Obleser, J. (2014) Alpha oscillatory dynamics index temporal expectation benefits in working memory. Cerebral Cortex. In press.
Herrmann, B., Schlichting, N., & Obleser, J. (2014). Dynamic range adaptation to spectral stimulus statistics in human auditory cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience. 34(1):327-31.
Bendixen, A., Scharinger, M., Strauß, A., Obleser, J. (2014) Prediction in the Service of Speech Comprehension: Modulated Early Brain Responses to Omitted Speech Segments. Cortex. In press.
Erb, J. & Obleser, J. (2013) Upregulation of cognitive control networks in older adults’ speech comprehension. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. 7:116.
Henry, M.J. & Obleser, J. (2012) Frequency modulation entrains slow neural oscillations and optimizes human listening behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (P N A S). 109(49): 20095–20100
Herrmann, B., Henry, M.J., Grigutsch, M., Obleser, J. (2013) Oscillatory Phase Precision in Neural Entrainment Underpins Illusory Percepts of Time. The Journal of Neuroscience. In press.
Henry, M.J., Herrmann, B., Obleser, J. (2013) Selective attention to temporal features nested in time. Cerebral Cortex. In press.
Scharinger, M., Henry, M.J., Erb, J., Meyer, L., Obleser, J. (2013) Thalamic and parietal brain morphology predicts auditory category learning. Neuropsychologia. In press.
Erb, J., Henry, M.J., Eisner, F., Obleser, J. (2013) The brain dynamics of rapid adaptation to adverse listening conditions. The Journal of Neuroscience. 33(26):10688–10697.
Herrmann, B., Henry, M.J., Scharinger, M., Obleser, J. (2013) Auditory filter width affects response magnitude but not frequency specificity in auditory cortex. Hearing Research. 304:128–136.
Strauß, A., Kotz, S.A., Obleser, J. (2013) Narrowed expectancies under degraded speech: Revisiting the N400. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. In press.
Herrmann, B., Henry, M.J., Obleser, J. (2013) Frequency-specific adaptation in human auditory cortex depends on the spectral variance in the acoustic stimulation. Journal of Neurophysiology. 109(8):2086–96.
Scharinger, M., Henry, M.J., Obleser, J., (2013). Prior experience with negative spectral correlations promotes information-integration during auditory category learning. Memory & Cognition. In press.
Obleser, J., Wöstmann, M., Hellbernd, N., Wilsch, A., Maess, B. (2012). Adverse listening conditions and memory load drive a common alpha oscillatory network. Journal of Neuroscience. 32(36):12376–83.
Obleser J, Weisz N (2012) Suppressed alpha oscillations predict intelligibility of speech and its acoustic details. Cerebral Cortex. 22(11):2466-2477.
Erb, J., Henry, M.J., Eisner, F., Obleser, J. (2012) Auditory skills and brain morphology predict individual differences in adaptation to degraded speech. Neuropsychologia. 50(9):2154–64.


Obleser, J., Kotz, S.A. (2010) Expectancy constraints in degraded speech modulate the speech comprehension network. Cerebral Cortex, 20(3): 633–640
Obleser, J., Wise, R.J.S., Dresner, M.A., Scott, S.K. ( 2007) Functional integration across brain regions improves speech perception under adverse listening conditions. Journal of Neuroscience, 27:2283–2289.
Obleser, J., Eisner, F., Kotz, S.A. (2008) Bilateral speech comprehension reflects differential sensitivity to spectral and temporal features. Journal of Neuroscience, 28(32):8116–8124.
Obleser, J., Zimmermann, J., Van Meter, J., Rauschecker, J.P. (2007) Multiple stages of auditory speech perception reflected in event-related fMRI. Cerebral Cortex, 17(10):2251–2257.
Obleser, J., Lahiri, A., Eulitz, C. (2004) Magnetic brain response mirrors extraction of phonological features from spoken vowels. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16(1):31–39.


Weisz, N., Obleser, J. (2013) Synchronisation signatures in the listening brain: a perspective from noninvasive neuroelectrophysiology. Hearing Research. In press.
Obleser, J., Herrmann, B. and Henry, M.J. (2012) Neural oscillations in speech: Don’t be enslaved by the envelope. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 6:250.
Obleser, J., Eisner, F. (2009) Pre-lexical abstraction of speech in the auditory cortex. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(1):14–19.
Petkov, C., Logothetis, N., Obleser, J. (2009) Where are the human speech and voice regions and do other animals have anything like them? The Neuroscientist, 15(5):419–429.
Weisz N, Hartmann T, Müller N, Obleser J (2011) Alpha Rhythms in Audition: Cognitive and Clinical Perspectives. Front Psychology 2:73.
Henry, M., & Herrmann, B. (2012). A precluding role of low-frequency oscillations for auditory perception in a continuous processing mode. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(49), 17525-17527.


If you are interested in working in our group please contact Jonas Obleser.


Chris Petkov University of Newcastle, UK
Josef P. Rauschecker Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Frank Eisner Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, NL
Sonja Kotz MPI-CBS, Leipzig, Germany
Angela Friederici MPI-CBS, Leipzig, Germany
Nathan Weisz University of Trento, Italy
Sophie Scott and Group University College London
Stuart Rosen University College London
Thomas Lunner Linköping University / Oticon Research Centre Eriksholm
Cochlear Implant Centre, Leipzig University Clinic
Markus Werkle-Bergner, ConMem project, MPI Hum Development, Berlin


Max Planck Society (5-year Max Planck Research Group grant)
Siemens Audiology Systems
Elekta Inc. (PI: B. Maess)


Last update: Nov 15, 2014 1.18.53 pm
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