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Delgutte, Bertrand, David N. Caplan, Frank H. Guenther, Jennifer R. Melcher, Joe C. Adams, Joseph S. Perkell, Kenneth E. Hancock, and M. Christian Brown, HST.722J Brain Mechanisms for Hearing and Speech, Fall 2005. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 09 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Brain Mechanisms for Hearing and Speech

Fall 2005

Still of animated 3D reconstruction of a DCN fusiform cell.
Still of animation of a DCN fusiform cell based on intracellular labeling and 3D reconstruction. (Still of animation by Dr. Kenneth E. Hancock.)

Course Highlights

This course features a complete bibliography of readings.

Course Description

An advanced course covering anatomical, physiological, behavioral, and computational studies of the central nervous system relevant to speech and hearing. Students learn primarily by discussions of scientific papers on topics of current interest. Recent topics include cell types and neural circuits in the auditory brainstem, organization and processing in the auditory cortex, auditory reflexes and descending systems, functional imaging of the human auditory system, quantitative methods for relating neural responses to behavior, speech motor control, cortical representation of language, and auditory learning in songbirds.


Course Topics

  • Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus: Signal Processing, Multisensory Integration and Plasticity
  • Reflexes and Descending Systems
  • Cell Types and Neural Circuits in the Brainstem
  • Quantitative Approaches to the Study of Neural Coding
  • Thalamo-cortical Organization and Processing
  • Speech Motor Control
  • Neuroimaging Correlates of Human Auditory Behavior
  • Cortical Representation of Language
  • Student Initiated Topics

Who should take this course?

Anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the role of the brain in speech and hearing. For students in the Harvard-MIT Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program, the course is an elective normally taken after the core courses HST.723 - Neural Coding and Perception of Sound, HST.718 - Anatomy of Speech and Hearing and 6.541J / HST.710J - Speech Communication. It is also appropriate for students in Brain and Cognitive Sciences or other departments who have a strong background in the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of sensory and motor systems. Students unsure of their background should consult one of the instructors.

How does the course work?

Much of the learning is done by topic discussions of scientific papers. Typically, a topic begins with a lecture giving an overview of the topic. Then, 3-6 topic papers are read and discussed in class under the leadership of a student. Two of the topics are proposed by students and selected by a competitive process.

Grade and Assignments

Your grade will be based approximately on the following:

Paper Presentations, Discussion Leading and Class Participation 65%
Written Topic Proposal and Oral Topic Presentation 35%

Selected Bibliography

Ehret, G., and R. Romand. The Central Auditory System. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780195096842.

Oertel, D., R. R. Fay, and A. N. Popper. Integrative Functions in the Mammalian Auditory Pathway. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag, 2002. ISBN: 9780387989037.

Popper, A. N., and R. R. Fay. The Mammalian Auditory Pathway: Neurophysiology. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag, 1992. ISBN: 9780387978017.

Webster, D. B., A. N. Popper, and R. R. Fay. The Mammalian Auditory Pathway: Neuroanatomy. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag, 1992. ISBN: 9780387976785.

Hawkins, H. L., T. A. McMullen, A. N. Popper, and R. R. Fay. Auditory Computation. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag, 1995. ISBN: 9780387978437.


1 Course Organization and Overview  
2 Lecture: Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus  
3 Discussion: Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus  
4 Discussion: Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus (cont.)  
5 Lecture: Descending Systems  
6 Discussion: Descending Systems  
7 Lecture: Cell Types and Circuits  
8 Discussion: Cell Types and Circuits  
9 Lecture: Quantitative Methods  
10 Discussion: Quantitative Methods  
11 Discussion: Quantitative Methods (cont.)  
12 Lecture: Thalamus and Cortex  
13 Discussion: Thalamus and Cortex  
14 Student Topic Presentations Oral presentations and written proposals for student selected discussion topics due
15 Lecture: Neuroimaging  
16 Lecture: Speech Motor Control  
17 Lecture: Motor Control  
18 Discussion: Speech Motor Control  
19 Discussion: Neuroimaging  
20 Discussion: Neuroimaging (cont.)  
21 Lecture: Cortical Language Processing  
22 Discussion: Cortical Language Processing  
23 Special Lecture  
24 Discussion: Student-initiated Topics  
25 Discussion: Student-initiated Topics (cont.)  
26 Discussion: Student-initiated Topics (cont.)   Tell A Friend