Call for Ph.D. thesis applications:Investigating audio-tactile brain plasticity using fNIRS in children using cochlear implants.

RESEARCH FIELD: Cognitive Hearing Science

SUPERVISION: Hamish INNES-BROWN, Søren Kamaric RIIS, Andrej KRAL

APPLICATION DEADLINE: March 15th, 2020

Host Institution: Eriksholm Research Centre / Oticon, Denmark

Doctoral School: Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Germany

Envisioned start and duration: The funding will cover the 3 years of a PhD and start any time in 2020 between June and December.

Job description: This position offers the exciting potential to complete a PhD at an industrial research centre as part of a large EU-funded Innovative Training Network. As part of this project you will use fNIRS (a light-based functional brain imaging technique) to investigate how the brains of cochlear implant users adapt to auditory-tactile stimulation, and how the strength and speed of this adaptation relate to speech understanding outcomes.

This position is a part of the multi-laboratory project Comm4CHILD, funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 860755.

Requested expertise: You should have a scientific mindset, be driven by a desire to understand complex systems, and have a background in cognitive psychology, audiology or cognitive hearing science. Candidates with a biomedical or electrical and electronic engineering background will also be considered. You should be proficient with cognitive/audiology laboratory testing paradigms and software (e.g. Matlab, R). Knowledge or experience using fNIRS, fMRI, or EEG would be an advantage.

Eligibility criteria: Applicants must hold a Master degree or have a university degree equivalent to a European Master’s (5-year duration) at the time when the PhD contract will begin.

At the time of recruitment, you must not already hold a doctorate degree and must be within the first four years of your research career (measured from the date of obtaining the degree which entitles you to embark on PhD studies);

You must not have resided or carried out their main activity (e.g. work, studies) in the country where you have been recruited (Denmark) for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. This excludes short stays such as holidays

Applications: You should submit

  1. A cover letter describing your background, research experiences, interests, and goals
  2. A curriculum vitae
  3. At least one letter of recommendation from a previous research supervisor
  4. A copy of diploma to the contact address.

to HAIN@eriksholm.com (PhD supervisor). Please, mention that you are applying to the “DOCTORAL position Comm4CHILD” in the email subject.

Scientific description: For people who use cochlear implants, even moderate noise or acoustic scenes with multiple talkers can severely degrade speech understanding. When children with cochlear implants are integrated in schools for normally-hearing children, the negative effect of noise on learning as well as on social integration is a serious concern. Recent evidence suggests that adding a wristband which provides vibrotactile input can substantially improve speech understanding in noise as well as appreciation of acoustically complex signals like music. The objective of this project is to investigate impact of cross-modal plasticity across somatosensory and auditory brain areas on listening performance in complex acoustic scenes (speech in noise, multi-talker, music) as well as on learning and language development for children using cochlear implants. In the study, a group of children fitted with cochlear implants will be equipped with a take-home vibrotactile wristband device delivering key acoustic cues. During and after a training period of up to three months, this group will be evaluated against a control group of children with cochlear implants without vibrotactile input. A vibro-tactile input device design from Univ. Southampton is available for the project. Speech outcome and music appreciation measures will be employed along with fNIRS brain imaging techniques for studying cross-modal plasticity across auditory and somatosensory areas before and after the training period. Furthermore, brain networks related to language processing and listening effort will be studied with fNIRS in the two groups. The outcomes of the project will be an increased understanding of how vibrotactile inputs can drive brain plasticity, and how this plasticity might be related to success in understanding speech.

Contact details for more information: Hamish Innes-Brown, HAIN@eriksholm.com