Professor Nima Mesgarani Presents on Brain-Controlled Assistive Hearing Technologies

Bio: Nima Mesgarani is an associate professor at Zuckerman Mind, Brain, Behavior Institute of Columbia University in the City of New York. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Language and Speech Processing at Johns Hopkins University and the Neurosurgery Department of the University of California San Francisco. He received the National Science Foundation Early Career Award in 2015, Pew Scholar for Innovative Biomedical Research Award in 2016, and Auditory Neuroscience Young Investigator Awards in 2019. His research was selected among the top-10 innovations of 2018 by UNICEF-Netexplo, top-10 breakthroughs of 2019 by Institute of Physics, and top-10 health innovations of 2019 by Healthcare Innovation. His interdisciplinary research combines experimental and computational methods to study speech communication in the human brain which critically impacts research in artificial models of speech processing and speech brain-computer interface technologies.

Abstract: Listening in noisy and crowded environments is a challenging task. Assistive hearing devices can suppress certain types of background noise, but they cannot help a user focus on a single conversation amongst many without knowing which speaker is the target. Professor Mesagarani’s recent advances in scientific discoveries of speech processing in the human auditory cortex have motivated several new paths to enhance the efficacy of hearable technologies. These possibilities include speech neuroprosthesis, which aims to establish a direct communication channel with the brain, auditory attention decoding where the similarity of a listener’s brainwave to the sources in the acoustic scene is used to identify the target source, and increased speech perception using electrical brain stimulation. In parallel, the field of auditory scene analysis has recently seen tremendous progress due to the emergence of deep learning models, where even solving the multi-talker speech recognition is no longer out of reach. Professor Mesagarani will discuss his recent efforts in bringing together the latest progress in speech neurophysiology, brain-computer interfaces and speech processing technologies to design and actualize the next generation of assistive hearing devices, with the potential to augment speech communication in realistic and challenging acoustic conditions.

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