Minerva Research Group "Neurocognition of Rhythm in Communication"
The primary goal of the group is to investigate the facilitatory effect of predictive cues in communication and its underlying processes. Focussing on rhythmic, formal, and emotional cues in communicative signals, we aim to identify factors that modulate the extraction of cues and thus the resulting predictions. Furthermore, we examine the functional and neuroanatomical links between specialized processing systems (language, learning, emotion, and sensorimotor) with respect to different types of predictive cues such as rhythm and emotion. In order to address these matters, behavioral, electrophysiological and brain imaging measures are employed in healthy and patient populations.
Time, emotion and the sensorimotor system
Currently, we are working with Parkinson (PD) patients, individuals with speech dysfluencies, and patients with focal lesions of the basal ganglia (BG) or the cerebellum (CE). By means of behavioral (sensorimotor synchronization) and electrophysiological (ERPs) methods we explore specific aspects of temporal and emotional processing in these groups. Our primary concern is to differentiate the contributions of subcortical structures and their cortical connections in these processes with special interest in the lateralization of the pathology.
The role of temporal and formal cues in communicative signals
Our research is based on the working hypothesis that speech comprehension involves ongoing predictions about future events. Further, we assume that those predictions are established based on cues provided in the ongoing signal. An open question is how cues are extracted and which cues are selected to form predictions. Finally, our research investigates how those predictions facilitate processing.
The role of emotional cues in communicative signals
One contextual aspect that can influence comprehension is the emotional content of a communicative signal. Emotional cues capture attention and therefore support efficient information processing. These can be contained in vocal, facial, and bodily expressions. Congruency between the different modalities facilitates processing, while incongruent cues can hamper comprehension. Methods in use include ERP, fMRI, and behavioral studies with healthy participants as well as patients with Parkinson´s disease (PD).
Investigating learning processes in speech and language
Learning is a continuous process occurring across many domains. Our main interest is to understand how general learning mechanisms apply to speech and language. We study these mechanisms as well as facilitatory effects of music, rhythm and social interaction. Furthermore, we are interested in the emergence of inter-individual differences and their impact on learning. We also explore whether late language acquisition can be considered as re-learning (e.g. in anomic patients or second language learners) and involves similar processes and neural bases as early language acquisition. For that purpose, we use behavioral as well as neuroimaging techniques (EEG, fMRI).