Assistant Professor of Psychology Jeremy Skipper has been awarded a $907,350 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research project "Neurobiology of Speech Perception in Real-World Contexts." The long-term objective of this research “is to understand the neural mechanisms of language comprehension in real-world settings, in which the brain can use context to aid in communication.”
According to Skipper’s grant proposal, “Spoken communication is accompanied by a wealth of contextual information, including both sensory information external to the listener (e.g., mouth movements and manual co-speech gestures) and knowledge or expectations internal to the listener (e.g., discourse context). Most research on speech perception discards context in favor of studying isolated speech sounds or words. Yet, preliminary studies suggest that the brain makes use of observed contextual information (Skipper, Wassenhove, et al., 2007) and that the cortical networks or pathways involved in language comprehension, are not fixed, but reorganize themselves depending on the type of context available to listeners (Skipper, Goldin-Meadow, et al., 2007).
The objective of understanding the neural mechanisms of language comprehension in real-world settings will be pursued by testing hypotheses derived from a model of communication built on the assumption that context is central to the perception of communicative acts (Skipper et al., 2006, Section B.2)."