We are trying to decipher the means by which barn owls - nocturnal hunters with an acute sense of auditory space - can discriminate between different sounds. Ethologically, this is a difficult task, since the owl not only has to separate a target sound (scurrying mouse) from conflicting targets, but also has to do so in the presence of a lot of background noise (masker).
Post-doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate researchers in the laboratory are using various approaches to try and understand how the owl's brain has such an exquisite sense of where sounds originate. We use a combination of behavioral studies and neurophysiology to uncover some of the computations that underlie spatial hearing in quiet, or in the presence of background (masking) noise.
Most of our research involves barn owls, but we have recently extended some of our research to human subjects*.