Article by Cal State L.A. Professor and Alumnus
Los Angeles, CA - April 29, 1999 - A Cal State L.A. professor and his former student have coauthored an article on the brain's perception of distorted speech patterns that appears in today's issue of Nature magazine. Published in England, Nature is one of the premier publications in the field of science, covering a broad spectrum of science issues for scientists and interested laypeople.
The article, titled "Cognitive Restoration of Reversed Speech," was written by Cal State L.A. professor of psychology David R. Perrott and Caltech senior research fellow Kourosh Saberi, who received his B.A. in sociology from Cal State L.A. in 1985 and his master's degree in psychology in 1989-the latter under Perrott's tutelage. The two have collaborated on a number of articles since Saberi worked in Perrott's Psychoacoustic Laboratory at Cal State L.A. Professor Perrott has been on the faculty at Cal State L.A. since 1968. He is known for his mentoring efforts that have placed his students in top doctoral programs, including UC Berkeley, Caltech, M.I.T. and Oxford.
The Nature article deals in part with how the brain processes and interprets distorted speech patterns-and what "cues" the brain picks up to process speech sounds. The researchers took sentences and divided them into segments of equal duration, then played the recorded segments backwards to human subjects-one segment or a sequence of "reversed speech" segments at a time.
"Speech is a multidimensional stimulus. There are different ways you can extract a message from it," says Saberi, who points out the example of a young, deaf lip-reader who, during a pause in a conversation told him, "You have an accent, don't you?"
At the moment, said Saberi, the human brain's capacity for comprehending and processing distorted or reversed speech is unmatched by any machine.
The article in the international weekly journal of science has drawn attention from the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, the Associated Press and the Discovery Channel among other media.
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