Topic 2.2 - The somatosensory function and perceptuo-motor loop in speech communication (ESR 6)

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The topic The somatosensory function and perceptuo-motor loop in speech communication will be hosted at the CNRS-GIPSA lab at the Université Grenoble-Alpes (FR), and supervised by Jean-Luc Schwartz and Takayuki Ito.

The improvement of hearing and speaking ability in subjects with HI is crucial for smooth communication. A central assumption in the present project is that those improvements can be achieved not individually, but interactively in both functions. As a matter of fact, recent neurocognitive studies involving our research group showed that orofacial somatosensory inputs can play a key role in the interaction between speech production and perception. It is thus expected that orofacial somatosensory inputs could intervene significantly in the improvement of both abilities in subjects with HI with and/or without HAs or CIs. The current ESR will examine the effect of orofacial somatosensory function in speech perception and speech production in subjects with HI with and without HAs or CIs, and the relationship between the somatosensory effect and speech abilities in individual subjects, in relation with their individual profile. The experimental methodology is based on a series of original paradigms developed in GIPSA-Lab, using a robotic device enabling to produce somatosensory stimulations on the face in a precisely controlled way both in space and time. The role of such stimulations for modifying and hopefully enhancing speech perception and speech production will be explored in combination with other modalities (audition and vision).

This work, exploiting a novel experimental technique and original paradigms for testing the perceptuomotor loop in speech communication, will provide both fundamental and practical outputs. Firstly, it will enable a better understanding of the orofacial somatosensory function for the improvement of speech ability in subjects with HI. This opens a novel aspect of the speech function for them. Secondly, from a practical perspective, the findings could enable exploit the somatosensory function to help children with HI to recover their ability to perceive and produce speech with or without HAs. This new perspective offered by the somatosensory system may result in overcoming a limitation of the current hearing technology.

Part of this project will take place at the Centre Comprendre et Parler, the most important French-speaking Centre for the Deaf in Belgium. This placement will enable the ESR to recruit children with HI, fitted with HAs or CIs, for his/her behavioural experiments on audio-visual binding, either through the rehabilitation centre or through the associated school.

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