Measuring and understanding auditory salience and distraction

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Ear Institute

Abstract

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.
 
Description The partnering award finished at the end of 2016.

One thread of our behavioural work (project 1) is summarized in a recent publication - Petsas, Harrison, Furukawa, Kashino & Chait (2016; Hearing research) The effect of distraction on change detection in crowded acoustic scenes. In this series of behavioural experiments we investigated the effect of distraction on the maintenance of acoustic scene information in short-term memory. Our results demonstrate that the maintenance of scene information in short-term memory is influenced by the availability of attentional and/or processing resources, and that this dependence appears to be modality specific. We also show that these processes are susceptible to bottom up driven distraction even in situations when the distractors are not novel, but occur on each trial. Change detection performance is systematically linked with the, independently determined, perceptual salience of the distractor sound. The findings also demonstrate that the present task is a useful objective means for determining relative perceptual salience.
We then (project 2) combined the behavioural task developed in Petsas et al (2016) with eye tracking to understand whether information from eye-metrics (pupillopmetry and microsaccades) can be used to measure and quantify distraction in the context of an auditory task. Trials containing a distractor were associated with increased pupil amplitude as well as a lower micro-saccade rate during the gap (after the presentation of the distractor sound). Interestingly, microsaccade rate distinguished successful (correct response) from unsuccessful (incorrect response) distractor trials: The mean micro-saccade rate during the silent gap was higher in trials where participants eventually responded correctly. These preliminary results suggest that eye-metrics may be used to infer the presence of distracting sounds and could provide a measure for quantifying the perceptual disruption caused by a distractor.
An additional series of behavioural and eye tracking experiments (project 3) examined attentional capture by events within rapidly unfolding tone pip sequence. The auditory system is sensitive to stimulus patterning and rapidly detects transitions in the fluctuation statistics of unfolding sound sequences. In an MEG study on naïve, distracted, listeners, previous work from my lab demonstrated cortical responses to transitions from regular-to-random as well as random-to-regular frequency patterns. In the present study we used eye tracking to measure pupillary responses to similar transitions. Emerging work suggests these to be sensitive to surprising (oddball) and salient auditory events.
We demonstrate that despite the fact that both transition directions (regular-to-random and random-to-regular) are clearly detectable behaviourally and both evoke strong MEG and EEG responses, only the regular-to-random transition evokes a measurable pupillary dilation response (PDR). To the extent that PDR can be interpreted as reflecting surprise or attentional capture by a salient event, this result is consistent with previous behavioural work from our lab demonstrating that the emergence of a regular pattern does not exogenously capture attention, despite evoking sizeable changes in EEG/MEG activity. These results have important implications for predictive coding models of perception.

Overall the outputs of the present project include over 10 conference presentations and the following publications:
(1) One paper published.

Petsas, T., Harrison, J., Kashino, M., Furukawa, S., Chait, M. (2016). The effect of distraction on change detection in crowded acoustic scenes. Hear Res, doi:10.1016/j.heares.2016.08.015

(2) three papers currently under review:

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/498485v1
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/466359v3
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/466367v1
Exploitation Route This award is tightly linked to my BBSRC award and enabled us to extend our experiments (and expertise) to cutting edge eye tracking (micro-saccade based) techniques. This has already resulted in a publication in the context of the ongoing BBSRC grant, and has also inspired further ongoing work in my lab.
The issue of distraction is currently gaining interest worldwide, notably in the context of human/machine interface design the complementary expertise of the two groups are key to take the work forward.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Other

 
Description BRC equipment grant
Amount £120,000 (GBP)
Organisation NHS England 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
 
Description Google 
Organisation Google
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution the initial work on auditory salience published this year (Petsas et al, 2016) has attracted the interest of the machine hearing team in Google. we have not embarked in a formal collaboration to use this paradigm to understand which sounds are 'more salient'
Collaborator Contribution Google is contributing algorithms and the experimental platform (mechanical turk)
Impact we have recently submitted a BBSRC project grant based on this work (UCL, Google, NTT collaboration)
Start Year 2016
 
Description collaboration with NTT (Japan Telecom) on Change detection and Salience 
Organisation Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation
Country Japan 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution prompted by mutual interests in change detection, the collaboration resulted in a BBSRC partenring award, one published co-authored paper (Petsas et al) and 2 more papers being prepared for publication. See more information about the work under the BBSRC partenring award (BB/L026864/1) form.
Collaborator Contribution See more information about the work under the BBSRC partenring award (BB/L026864/1) form.
Impact See more information about the work under the BBSRC partenring award (BB/L026864/1) form.
Start Year 2010
 
Description "Sound Talking" at the science museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Sound Talking" was a one-day event at the London Science Museum that explored the complex relationships between language and sound, both historically and in the present day. I (MC) was a speaker and panelist.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description '5Hz Lab' project, Arnolfini, Bristol, 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our work on sensitivity to patterns in sound featured in 5Hz Labs at the Arnolfini in Bristol (16/11/2014)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.arnolfini.org.uk/whatson/5hz-labs-beyond-the-word
 
Description Guardian project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Guardian project on brain and music. Short films featuring musicians listening to their favourite songs and the associated brain activity. Filming took place in my lab over the summer. Published on the guardian website in October 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ear/research/chaitlab/Guardian
 
Description Host lab 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact in2science is an organization which gives high school students from low income backgrounds the opportunity to work alongside scientists in laboratory settings. My lab has hosted such students for the past three years and will continue to regularly do so.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description Music and Cochlear implants 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Sound Art and Cochlear Implants. A collaboration with Tom Tlalim who is developing a CI sound art project at the Victoria & Albert museum through their educational and communities engagement platform. This project is also supported by AoHL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Our work featured on BBC World Service's 'Science in Action' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our work on auditory scene analysis and effect of visual information on listening ability was featured on BBC World Service's 'Science in Action'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Primary school visit to talk about my work 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact talked to children (year 1 - year 6) about my 'career in science'. Tried to especially get girls excited about working in research.

activity is to take place in 2 weeks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description School visit (Hackney) part of iDiscover program 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Visit to a primary school in Hackney as part of the iDiscover program http://www.inspire-ebp.org.uk/article/items/iDiscover-new-year-new-themes-new-funding.html
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description School visit. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact iDiscover is an organization that runs primary school programs aiming to engage young people from inner London primary schools in science and discovery. Next scheduled activity in November 2016 and January 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Speaker and Panellist. "How music contributes to productivity and focus". Discussion section during a "Crick Late" public event. The Crick Institute, London UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Speaker and Panellist. "How music contributes to productivity and focus". Discussion section during a "Crick Late" public event. The Crick Institute, London UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description The Science museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Science museum filmed work in our lab, to be featured in the permanent exhibition within the new mathematics gallery (due to open in December 2016).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description UCL Neuroscience Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We presented a lab poster, detailing work in our lab including the major projects supported by this BBSRC grant. The poster was very popular and won first prize in the 'lab poster' competition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description UCL-PSL workshop on sensory systems in complex environments 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I organized a two day workshop on "Sensory Systems in Complex Environments" which brought together researchers (PIs and students) from UCL and Paris.

More details are here: http://audition.ens.fr/workshop/ws_ucl_psl_2015/

The workshop was funded by a generous contribution from the UCL and PSL international offices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://audition.ens.fr/workshop/ws_ucl_psl_2015/
 
Description World Hearing Day (March 2nd) stall at Kings Cross stations 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact To Mark World Hearing Day (March 2nd) I help organize, set up, and run a public engagement event at Kings Cross station. We spent the whole date (7 AM till 4 PM) at the station engaging the passers by, distributing leaflets and raising awareness of hearing and hearing protection.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description participation in 'The lab project' - an art project ran in kingsgate workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Lab Project is an experimental month long exhibition and events program that explores the interactions between art and science. Our work is featured in the 'step 1' symposium which brings together scientists and creative practitioners to discuss possible 'entanglements' between science and art: " How can we use sound to affect one's experience of their surroundings?"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://thelabproject.tumblr.com/about
 
Description screening panel for 'the flame challenge' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We are on the screening panel for this year's Flame Challenge : "What is sound?"

The Flame Challenge is an international competition where scientists answer the question in a way that is most appropriate for 11-year-olds. Entries are judged by thousands of 5th and 6th grade schoolchildren around the world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org/flame-challenge-2015/
 
Description secrets of the brain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact filming took place in my lab on Jan 2017 for a documentary "Secrets of the Brain" (Lambent productions), which will air at the end of 2017.
Our work will be featured in an episode devoted to auditory processing and music.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description talk at the University of the 3rd Age (U3A), Hounslow Branch 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a presentation on our ongoing work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description talk at the University of the 3rd Age (U3A), Upminster Branch 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a presentation about work in my lab, and hearing research more generally, to a local branch of the U3A in Upminster. I received overwhelmingly positive feedback and urged to return. I plan to come for another lecture later in the year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description workshop on prediction in heating Leipzig university 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact an information workshop in Leipzig to discuss auditory scene analysis. I (Maria Chait) and Ed Sohoglu gave presentations on change detection in complex acoustic scenes
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014