6 May 2014
Dr Victoria Leong, Sutasoma Research Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College has been awarded the Robert J. Glushko Dissertation Prize by the Cognitive Science Society. This annual prize is awarded in recognition of an outstanding dissertation in cognitive science, characterised by ground-breaking research that successfully bridges several disciplines.
Victoria's winning dissertation was titled 'Prosodic rhythm in the speech amplitude envelope: Amplitude Modulation Phase Hierarchies (AMPHs) & AMPH models'. She developed 'artificially intelligent' computational models that, like infants, could identify patterns of prosodic rhythm and syllables from the speech signal without requiring prior knowledge about language. The models used acoustic oscillatory signatures that can be mapped by neuronal oscillations in the brain.
She then applied these models to understand how speaking in 'motherese' to children helps them to learn language, and how children with dyslexia struggle to extract rhythm and syllables correctly from speech. Thus, the work in the dissertation spanned the fields of psychology, education, linguistics, neuroscience, computational modelling and speech acoustics.
The prize, which is worth $10,000, will be presented to Victoria at the 36th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in Quebec in July, where she will also present her research work.
Victoria began her Research Fellowship at Lucy Cavendish College in 2014, and she is currently extending her dissertation research to further explore how a baby's brain uses the speech signal to learn language in real life, and by developing techniques to artificially enhance speech to better support children's language learning.