The healthy brain efficiently uses cognitive processes to select relevant information from the bombardment of stimuli in real environments. This means it uses cognitive processes for integrating information across stimulus features, objects and time scales. However, these cognitive processes cannot be fully investigated with current neuroscience paradigms, because the paradigms that have been developed until now lack ecological validity. Ecological validity is nevertheless important when patients move from the lab into the real world.
The main research objectives with FreeListening M/EEG is to investigate the questions: Which cognitive neuroscience findings are most important in real life? Are new neural mechanisms in real life awaiting to be discovered? The aim of the project is to investigate these questions with a mixed-methods approach combining controlled and ecological experiments. While fMRI techniques only measure brain function on a slow time scale (> 1 second), brain activity related to realistic fast events can only be measured with M/EEG. Also, only EEG can be brought outside the laboratory to perform realistic field-studies.
Currently, we investigate how the brain encodes complex, realistic sound structure via neural adaptation and predictive coding mechanisms. We are conducting studies on healthy normal hearing subjects and on patients with hearing loss undergoing hearing rehabilitation after surgery with cochlear implants.