Skyler Jennings

Skyler Jennings

e-mail: Skyler.Jennings@hsc.utah.edu
Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Brain and Behavior
B.S. 2004, Utah State University; M.S. 2007, Purdue University; Ph.D. 2011, Purdue University

RESEARCH:

Understanding how the auditory system adapts to a changing acoustic environment in order to facilitate speech understanding in a noisy background.

My research has a broad impact on our understanding of how the auditory system adapts to noisy backgrounds and how this adaptation influences auditory perception in younger and older adults with normal hearing and older adults with hearing impairment. Recently, this work has been motivated by the physiology of the medial olivocochlear (MOC) reflex, which may improve speech perception in noisy backgrounds by adjusting the gain of the cochlear amplifier. This adjustment in gain may improve the contrast between a target signal (e.g., speech) and background noise. Similarly, gross temporal fluctuations in speech (i.e. the speech envelope) consist of a series of peaks and valleys. The physiology of the MOC reflex predicts that the contrast between these peaks and valleys improve when the reflex is stimulated. Current projects in my laboratory are pursuing these predictions through perceptual and computational modeling studies. Modeling studies serve as a bridge between auditory perception and neurophysiology. The knowledge gained from my research program will lead to novel diagnostic procedures and rehabilitative signal processing strategies, designed to enhance the quality of life for hearing-impaired individuals by improving their ability to understand speech in noisy backgrounds.

Selected Publications:

Jennings, S.G., Ahlstrom, J.B., and Dubno, J.R. (2015) Effects of Age, Hearing Impairment, and Efferent Feedback on Overshoot, (in review, JASA).

Bidelman, G.M., Jennings, S.G., and Strickland, E.A. (2015) PsyAcoustX: A flexible MATLAB® package for psychoacoustics research, Front. Psychol., Advance online publication. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01498

Jennings, S.G., Ahlstrom, J.B., and Dubno, J.R. (2014) Computational Modeling of Indi- vidual Dfferences in Behavioral Estimates of Cochlear Nonlinearities, J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 15:945-960.

Bidelman, G.M., Schug, J.M., Jennings, S.G., and Bhagat, S.P. (2014) Psychophysical Au- ditory Filter Estimates Suggest Sharper Cochlear Tuning in Musicians, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 136:EL33-39.

Jennings, S.G., and Strickland, E.A. (2012) Evaluating the Effects of Olivocochlear Feedback on Psychophysical Measures of Frequency Selectivity, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 132:2497-2513.

Jennings, S.G., and Strickland, E.A. (2012) Auditory Filter Tuning Inferred with Short Sinusoidal and Notched-noise Maskers, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 132:2483-2496.

Chintanpalli, A.K., Jennings, S.G., Heinz, M.G., and Strickland, E.A. (2012) Modeling the anti-masking effects of the olivocochlear reflex in auditory-nerve responses to tones in sustained noise, J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 13:219-235.

Jennings, S.G., Heinz, M.G., and Strickland, E.A. (2011) Evaluating Proposed Mechanisms of Psychophysical Overshoot Using a Computational Model of the Auditory Periphery, J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol., 12:345-360.

Jennings, S.G., and Strickland, E.A. (2010) The Frequency Selectivity of Gain Reduction Masking: Analysis Using Two Equally Effective Maskers, In: E. A. Lopez-Poveda, A. R. Palmer, and R. Meddis (Eds.) The Neurophysiological Bases of Auditory Perception. New York: Springer., pp. 47-58.

Jennings, S.G., Strickland, E.A., and Heinz, M.G. (2009) Precursor Effects on Behavioral Estimates of Frequency Selectivity and Gain in Forward Masking, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 125:2172-2181.