Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hearing through the smoke and mirrors

Saturday, March 20, 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Poppy Crum, Ph.D., Research Scientist in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins Medical School.

National Science Foundation, Room 110 
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA (Map)

Making sense of the natural world often leads us to live in a constant state of illusion. For example, if one hears a crying baby in a noisy environment or rustling leaves in a forest as a bear lumbers nearby, the brain has a daunting task. It must determine which frequencies of the acoustic waveform belong to the baby or nearby grizzly, identify where these auditory events are located, integrate this information with cues from other sensory modalities - such as the visual location if available, and finally determine what sort of action is required (e.g. both require some worry and likely generate a shift in one’s heart rate, but reacting inappropriately in one instance could have much more complicated consequences!) The problem of scene analysis in a busy visual and acoustic environment is complex, and offers many possibilities for our sensory systems to get it wrong.  But, maybe getting it wrong is a way of making sure we get it right when it matters most – and the grizzly bear is left foraging for his berries.

This talk will focus on how we have evolved to experience a non-veridical world and the contextual fluidity of perceptual hearing.

Poppy Crum is a research scientist in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Her work investigates neural circuits in the auditory cortex involved in hearing in a complex acoustic environment. Dr. Crum completed her PhD at the University of California Berkeley with an emphasis in neuroscience and psychoacoustics and her masters degree at McGill University with an emphasis in auditory scene analysis. She also holds a degree in violin performance through studies at the University of Iowa and McGill University. During this time she spent many hours involved in the recording arts as both a performer and engineer. In addition to her scientific research, Dr. Crum frequently presents lectures at national and international conferences that offer an understanding of psychoacoustic phenomena through an integration of the underlying anatomy and physiology of the auditory system.