Deniz Başkent1,2
Department of Otorhinolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
2University of Groningen, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Research School of Behavioral and Cognitive Neurosciences, Groningen, Netherlands

Perception of a speaker’s voice is not only important for talker identification, but also for assessing their emotional state and better understanding their speech, by adapting to their speaking style, or segregating their speech from background interfering speakers. Our focus on voice perception is further motivated by our interest in users of cochlear implants (CIs), whose speech communication relies on electrically transmitted speech signals that are inherently degraded in their spectro-temporal details. Previous research with post-lingually deafened and implanted adult CI users had shown that this typical CI group seem to have difficulties in tasks related to voice perception. Therefore, to be able to introduce any improvement to this problem, we have to understand specific perceptual mechanisms related to voice perception. For this purpose, we have been collecting data on development of voice perception throughout childhood to adulthood. More specifically, in our PICKA (Perception of Indexical Cues in Kids and Adults) project we have been investigating voice cue perception, vocal gender categorization, voice emotion perception, and speech on speech perception. In these experiments, we focus on vocal pitch (F0, related to glottal pulse rate) and vocal tract length (VTL, related to formants) as these voice cues can largely affect the perceived gender of a speaker and could be manipulated separately or together from a single speaker using speech synthesis tools (e.g., STRAIGHT). Further, we have been testing various groups as different learning models, such as early deafened children and adults, implanted early or later in life, and who have to learn voice cues via their implant directly. This systematic approach has revealed many interesting observations. Namely, mechanisms related to voice cue use seem to develop slowly in childhood over many years, and the effectiveness of use of voice cues seems to differ greatly across child or adult users of CIs.

Acknowledgements: This presentation is partially based on the PhD Thesis work of Leanne Nagels, in collaboration with Petra Hendriks, Etienne Gaudrain, Debi Vickers, Christina Fuller, and Rolien Free. Thankful for funding by Center for Language Cognition Groningen and Mandema (Univ. Groningen, NL), VICI Grant 918-17-603 (ZonMw, NWO, NL), and Senior Fellowship Grant S002537/1 (MRC, UK).