DECODING NEURAL RESPONSES TO SOUNDS IN PATIENTS WITH DISORDERS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

16 June 2021

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Interested?

For more information please contact Dr. Jonas Vanthornhout, tel.: +32 16 37 31 52, mail: jonas.vanthornhout@kuleuven.be or Prof. dr. Tom Francart, tel.: +32 16 37 98 40, mail: tom.francart@kuleuven.be.You can apply for this job no later than September 01, 2021 via the online application tool

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.

(ref. BAP-2021-450)

Apply before 01 September 2021

This PhD project is a collaboration between the Department of Neurosciences (ExpORL) of the University of Leuven and the Coma Science Group of the University of Liège. Leuven and Liège are small but lively cities in Belgium located close to Brussels, with excellent quality of life, easy connections to European capitals. The University of Leuven, founded in 1425, is a highly ranked research-intensive university and has been named the most innovative university in Europe by Reuters. The University of Liège, founded in 1817, is world leader in research in disorders of consciousness.

The research group of Experimental Otorhinolaryngology (ExpORL), Neurosciences, aims to improve the hearing and communication of people with hearing impairment. The main research topics at ExpORL are:

* The neuroscience of speech perception

* Temporal neural processing in the auditory system

* Speech and music processing for cochlear implants

* Noise reduction for improved speech perception with hearing instruments in adverse and noisy listening environments

* Binaural hearing: signal processing schemes and evaluation procedures for bilateral acoustical and/or electrical hearing instruments

We focus on the chain of auditory modelling, signal processing, simulation, psychophysical tests, electrophysiological measurements, imaging, lab implementation, and evaluation with normal hearing subjects and users of hearing aids and cochlear implants. Intensive research has led to fundamental knowledge about hearing and speech perception. Based on these studies, we have developed new signal processing strategies used worldwide in the most recent cochlear implant systems and hearing aids. Furthermore, we have developed diagnostic and evaluation strategies that are widely clinically applied.

Our research group is strongly multidisciplinary, consisting of 35 researchers from various backgrounds (engineering, audiology, medicine, ...)

The Coma Science Group aims to improve the medical care and understanding of disorders of consciousness following an acute injury. The main research topics at the Coma Science Group are:

* Assess the recovery of neurological disability

* Assess the neuronal plasticity in severely brain-damaged patients with altered states of consciousness

* Diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and daily management of patients with altered states of consciousness such as coma, "vegetative"/unresponsive wakefulness, minimally conscious or locked-in syndrome

* Explore human consciousness

Our research group is strongly multidisciplinary, consisting of 30 researchers from various backgrounds (engineering, neuropsychology, medicine, ...)

Website unit

Project

Patients" class="redactor-autoparser-object">http://www.coma.ulg.ac.be#####... with a disorder of consciousness can be in different states: some have the locked-in syndrome and perceive their surroundings but cannot communicate, while patients in a vegetative state are entirely unaware of their surroundings. The diagnosis of these patients is challenging but of the utmost importance for rehabilitation and their daily management. This project aims to develop a novel objective and motor-independent diagnostic tool based on brain-computer interface technology, integrating prior information about patients' ability to hear, perceive and understand. We will record the electroencephalogram (EEG) signal to acoustic signals and evaluate the brain activity from the brain stem to the cortex. If the activity shows that the patient understands speech, we will communicate with the patients using a brain-to-computer interface (BCI). By presenting multiple speech streams to the patients and instructing them to focus on a particular speaker when they want to answer yes, we will communicate with them.This project not only aims to help patients with a disorder of consciousness but can also lead to further improvements in the field of auditory neuroscience and the understanding of human consciousness. The work involves a plethora of EEG signal processing techniques. Besides signal processing, the work also encompasses experimental design, data collection, and hypothesis-driven neuroscience research.

Profile
  • A degree in computer science, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, computational mathematics, physics or similar
  • A good background in machine learning.
  • A good background in (EEG) signal processing
  • Good programming skills
  • An interest in neurosciences and auditory perception
  • An inquisitive and creative mind, good problem solving skills
  • Willingness to work in an interdisciplinary team
  • Excellent English proficiency
  • Knowledge of auditory neuroscience and psychology of hearing is a plus
  • Knowledge of disorders of consciousness is a plus


Important note: motivation letters are free format except for 2 obligatory paragraphs:
1) Reason(s) why I am interested in this particular position: [write reasons here]
2) Facts or examples that demonstrate that I satisfy the listed requirements: [write reasons here]
The application deadline is in September 2021, but earlier applications are encouraged and will be considered as soon as they are received.

Offer
  • Exciting consciousness/auditory research with signal processing/BCI techniques
  • Membership of two world-renowned labs, as part of a motivated interdisciplinary team, with an extensive international network
  • Membership of KU Leuven, one of the largest research universities of Europe
  • The possibility to take part in international conferences and collaborations
  • A competitive salary