Collaborative Research Center 31 –
The focus of the Transregional Collaborative Research Center 31 – active hearing, which was approved in 2005 by the German Research Foundation is how the hearing systems works under complex stimulus situations. Physicians, psychologists, biologists and physicists from the Universities of Magdeburg and Oldenburg and the Leibniz-Institute Magdeburg work in this SFB to both the neurological basis of the processing of acoustic signals in the auditory system as well as their simulation using computer models. The transregional SFB was funded with almost 5 million Euros in the first four years. Meanwhile, two extensions were granted, so that the transregional SFB is now in its third phase until 2017 and is funded with EUR 9 million.
The aim of the interdisciplinary teams of researchers is to explain the mechanisms that are responsible for the exceptional performance of the auditory system, for example recognizing individuals and their statements in a babble of voices. Human hearing does not resemble a passive amplifier, but actively chooses from a variety of competing auditory signals those that are of interest to the individual. This can be best illustrated using the cocktail party situation in which from a plurality of conversations the focus of attention can be directed to the one relevant for us. In addition to human studies, experiments on animals (e.g., gerbils, starlings, titmice) are performed. The aim of the scientific work of the Magdeburg and Oldenburg researchers is to move from the neural bases to the development of models to technical and clinical applications. These are for example expected to improve the speech processing in hearing aids. If it were possible to return the hearing abilities of a youth to a hearing impaired elderly, that would be a massive success. The tests should further allow for new insights to which changes take place in the auditory system of the elderly.
Find out more at www.sfb-trr31.uni-oldenburg.de