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Fakultät für Psychologie
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News & Views
Brain Symmetry of Whistled Turkish
Whistled languages represent an experiment of nature to test the widely accepted view that language comprehension is governed by the left hemisphere in an input-invariant manner. Indeed, the left hemisphere does the job for writing as well as atonal, tonal, signed, and clicked languages. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is specialized to encode acoustic properties like spectral cues, pitch, and melodic lines and plays a role for prosodic communication. Would left hemispheric superiority change, when subjects had to encode a language that is constituted by acoustic properties for which the right hemisphere is specialized? Well, whistled Turkish uses the full lexical and syntactic information of vocal Turkish, and transforms this into whistles to transport complex conversations over kilometers. A group of Biopsychologists from Bochum now tested the comprehension of vocally vs. whistled syllables in native whistle-speaking people of mountainous Northeast Turkey. They discovered that whistled language comprehension relies on symmetric hemispheric contributions, associated with a decrease of left and a relative increase of right hemispheric encoding mechanisms. These results demonstrate that a language that places high demands on right hemisphere-typical acoustical encoding mechanisms creates a radical change in language asymmetries. Thus, language asymmetry patterns are importantly shaped by the physical properties of the lexical input. This paper was featured by many prime media like Science, Scientific American, The Scientist, New York Times, The New Yorker, BBC, Washington Post, CNN, and many more. It is also part of the Science podcast of August 21, 2015.
News & Views
PhD Thesis Sarah Starosta
On Thursday, the 13th of August 2015, Sarah defended her PhD thesis entitled „Neuronal and Behavioral Mechanisms of Extinction Learning and Renewal” in front of a tough IGSN examination committee. One of the examiners, Juan Rosas, had travelled all the way from Spain to Bochum for this task. As expected, Sarah did a brilliant job. Her talk was simply perfect, and she could respond in excellent and witty ways to each and every question. Despite trying in the hardest possible way, the examiners found no soft spot. It was all simply perfect. Therefore, the committee unanimously decided to award her the title Philosophiae doctoris (PhD) in Neuroscience.
Congratulations Sarah! You are outstanding!
News & Views
Sebastian Ocklenburg bekommt die venia legendi
Die Habilitation ist die höchstrangige Hochschulprüfung in Deutschland und setzt ein exzellentes wissenschaftliches Oeuvre voraus. Nach einem eingehenden Prüf-verfahren mit auswärtigen internationalen Gutachten wird bei erfolgreicher Evaluation die Lehrbefähigung (facultas docendi) vergeben. Nach einer anschließenden erfolg-reich verlaufenden Antrittsvorlesung wird zum Schluss die Lehrberechtigung ausge-sprochen. Diese heißt venia legendi („Erlaubnis zu lesen [d. h. zu lehren]“). Die venia legendi ist die höchste Auszeichnung, die eine Fakultät vergeben kann und signalisiert den Abschluss eines Prüfprozesses mit dem evaluiert wird, ob der Wissenschaftler sein Fach in voller Breite in Forschung und Lehre vertreten kann. Bei Erfolg wird die akademische Bezeichnung Privatdozent (PD) verliehen. Am 8. Juni 2015 war es für Sebastian Ocklenburg soweit. Mit seinem Vortrag „Das asymmetrische Gehirn und die Doppelhelix - Die Neurogenetik funktionaler Lateralisation" überzeugte er restlos alle, dass er diesen Titel verdient hatte und bekam die venia legendi aus den Händen von Annette Kluge, der Dekanin in spe unserer Fakultät.
Herzlichen Glückwunsch PD Dr. Sebastian Ocklenburg!!!!
News & Views
biopsychology retreat in bavaria
Towards the end of July the Biopsychology lab departed for its first grand retreat towards Bavaria. On the first morning we enjoyed the impressive research station of our host Princess Auguste von Bayern in her castle Leutstetten. Her outdoor aviaries and her insights in Social learning and Tool use of her New Caledonian Crows fascinated us as much as her heartfelt kindness. The picture was taken in front of her castle. Then came the excursion to the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology with lectures of Manfred Gahr, Nils Rattenborg, Henrik Brumm and Holger Görlitz. We could use their excellent facilities on Saturday for our own series of presentations, showing up future ideas and synergies in our department. The last day was spent as a guest of Auguste's father on the Ritterfestival where some of us unfortunately were sentenced to tarring and feathering. A somehow fitting punishment for members of a lab working with birds...
News & Views
Left dominance for language perception starts in the extrastriate cortex
While it is well known that the left hemisphere is more efficient than the right in most tasks involving perception of speech stimuli, the neurophysiological pathways leading to these lateralised performance differences are as yet rather unclear.
To clarify this question, a team of researchers from the University of Dresden and the Biopsychology lab recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) during tachistoscopic presentation of horizontally or vertically presented verbal stimuli in the left (LVF) and the right visual field (RVF). On the behavioural level, participants showed stronger hemispheric asymmetries for horizontal, than for vertical stimulus presentation. In addition, ERP asymmetries were also modulated by stimulus presentation format.
Moreover, sLORETA revealed that ERP left-right asymmetries were mainly driven by the extrastriate cortex and reading-associated areas in the parietal cortex. Taken together, the present study shows electrophysiological support for the assumption that language lateralisation during speech perception arises from a left dominance for the processing of early perceptual stimulus aspects.
Selpien, H., Siebert, C., Genc, E., Beste, C., Faustmann, P.M., Güntürkün, O., Ocklenburg, S., Left dominance for language perception starts in the extrastriate cortex: An ERP and sLORETA study. Behavioural Brain Research, 2015, 291: 325-333.