Auditory perception and speech comprehension in aging

Principle investigators:
Jörg Lewald, Stephan Getzmann

Christina Hanenberg, Laura Klatt

DFG GE 1920/3-1; DFG LE 673/2-1; BMBF-Project TRAIN-STIM

Christan Altmann (Kyoto University), Edward J. Golob (Tulane University), Michael B. Hoffmann (Universitäts-Augenklinik Magdeburg), Risto Näätänen (University of Tartu), Jesko L. Verhey (Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg)

The preservation of speech comprehension in difficult listening conditions is one of the greatest challenges of healthy aging. Deficits in speech comprehension can occur already at middle age and cause significant impairments in professional and private life. Our group investigates the sources of age-related difficulties in speech perception in realistic complex experimental environments using modern neurophysiological methods. The aim is to detect the neural basis of successful speech perception in younger and older adults and to identify potential factors influencing these processes. A major focus here is the elucidation of the neurophysiological backgrounds of the interindividual differences in performance when listening in complex acoustic environments. The results of our work will be used to develop and evaluate methods for improving speech comprehension in older age.

The DFG-project ‘Auditory scene analysis and focusing of attention in speech perception during complex dynamic listening situations in younger and older adults’ investigates speech perception in realistic listening scenarios, focusing on the critical role of changes in auditory scenery. We expect that age-related increases in ‘switch costs’ of re-orienting and re-focusing of attention contribute to deficits in speech comprehension of older adults.

In the BMBF project TRAIN-STIM (Brain Plasticity for Active Aging: Enhancing Sensory, Motor, and Cognitive Function by Training Interventions and Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation) methods for improving selective attention will be developed which are based on a combination of passive learning, active training, and non-invasive method of brain stimulation, using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). TRAIN-STIM is conducted in cooperation with collaborators in Berlin, Hamburg, Göttingen, and Dresden.



  • Getzmann, S., Golob, E.J. & Wascher, E. (2016). Focused and divided attention in a simulated cocktail-party situation: ERP evidence from younger and older adults. Neurobiology of Aging, 41, 138-149.
  • Getzmann, S., Falkenstein, M. & Wascher, E. (2015). ERP correlates of auditory goal-directed behavior of younger and older adults in a dynamic speech perception task. Behavioural Brain Research, 278, 435-445.
  • Getzmann, S., Hanenberg, C., Lewald, J., Falkenstein, M. & Wascher, E. (2015). Effects of age on electrophysiological correlates of speech processing in a dynamic “cocktail-party” situation. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 9, 341.
  • Getzmann, S. & Näätänen, R. (2015). The mismatch negativity (MMN) as a measure of auditory stream segregation in a simulated “cocktail-party” scenario: Effect of age. Neurobiology of Aging, 36, 3029-3037.
  • Getzmann, S., Wascher, E. & Falkenstein, M. (2015). What does successful speech-in-noise perception in aging depend on? Electrophysiological correlates of high and low performance in older adults. Neuropsychologia, 70, 43-57.
  • Lewald, J. & Getzmann, S. (2015). Electrophysiological correlates of cocktail-party listening. Behavioural Brain Research, 292, 157-166.