Learning about the Vocal World: Deciphering the Statistics of Communication

This interdisciplinary symposium brought together Emory faculty and internationally-recognized scholars from around the country, spanning fields as diverse as psychology, neuroscience, physics, and medicine, to share with post doctoral fellows and students how they are making use of computational and quantitative methods to study the production and perception of vocal communication signals.

May 20, 2015

Silverbell Pavilion @ The Emory Conference Center Hotel
8:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m
Poster Session and Open Bar
5:00 p.m - 7:00 p.m

The day’s schedule consisted of the main conference discussions followed by lunch time round-tables and concluded with a poster session where Emory graduate students (and undergraduates on campus)  presented posters, judged by the invited speakers. The all-day event was held on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM EST at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta, GA. The event was sponsored by Emory Conference Subvention Fund, the Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods, the Center for Mind, Brain and Culture.  Co-organizers for this event were Samuel Sober and Robert Liu.


8:00 a.m

Registration and poster set up

8:45 a.m

Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Vocal statistics and learning I

8:50 - 9:00 a.m

Chair Comments by Dr. Lynne Nygaard (Psychology, Emory University)

9:00 - 9:40 a.m

Dr. Morten Christiansen (Psychology, Cornell University):
Sequence learning and the cultural evolution of language

9:40 - 10:20 a.m

Dr. Ofer Tchernichovski (Psychology, Hunter College, The City University of New York):

How a song is learned: mechanisms of template matching

10:20 - 10:40 a.m


Vocal statistics and learning II

10:40 - 10:50 a.m

Chair Comments by Dr. Gordon Ramsay (Pediatrics, Emory University)

10:50 - 11:30 a.m

Dr. Eugene Buder (Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Memphis):
Topography of Human Vocal Development

11:30 a.m -

12:10 p.m

Dr. Sam Sober (Biology, Emory University):
Statistical constraints on vocal learning in songbirds

12:10 - 1:00 p.m


Neural mechanisms of perception

1:00 - 1:10 p.m       

Chair Comments by Dr. Robert Liu (Biology, Emory University)

1:10 - 1:50 p.m

Dr. Edward Chang (Neurosurgery, University of California at San Francisco):
Functional organization of human auditory cortex in speech perception

1:50 - 2:30 p.m

Dr. Sarah M. N. Woolley (Psychology, Columbia University):
Neural mechanisms of auditory-vocal communication: mapping receiver tuning to sender behavior

2:30 - 3:10 p.m

Dr. Maria Geffen (Otolaryngology, University of Pennsylvania):
The role of auditory cortex in perceptual acuity and emotional learning of sounds

3:10 - 3:30 p.m


Vocalizations and Emotions

3:30 - 3:40 p.m

Chair Comments by Dr. Donald "Tig" Rainnie (Psychiatry, Emory University)

3:40 - 4:20 p.m

Dr. Katrin Schenk (Physics and Astronomy, Randolph College):
Evaluating the communicative value of mouse vocalizations

4:20 - 5:00 p.m

Dr. Jeff Wenstrup (Neurobiology, Northeast Ohio Medical University):
Emotional content in acoustic communication: Messages sent, messages received

5:00 - 7:00 p.m

Evening appetizer reception and posters

Title:Topography of Human Vocal Development

Speaker: Dr. Eugene Buder (University of Memphis)

Title: Sequence learning and the cultural evolution of language

Speaker: Dr. Morten Christiansen (Cornell University)

Title: Evaluating the communicative value of mouse vocalizations

Speaker: Dr. Katrin Schenk (Randolph College)


Title: Statistical constraints on vocal learning in songbirds

Speaker: Dr. Samuel Sober (Emory University)


Title: How a song is learned: mechanisms of template matching

Speaker: Dr. Ofer Tchernichovski (Hunter College, CUNY)

Title: Emotional Content in Acoustic Communication: Messages Sent, Messages Received

Speaker: Dr. Jeffrey J. Wenstrup (Northeast Ohio Medical University)