Andrew Oxenham, PhD, is an expert in auditory science and he shares his wonder of the aural world with his colleagues and students. In his 2018 article, “How We Hear: The Perception and Neural Coding of Sound,” in the Annual Review of Psychology, Oxenham's reverence for his subject is crystal clear:
Our ability to detect, localize, and identify sounds is astounding given the seemingly limited sensory input: our eardrums move to and fro with tiny and rapid changes in air pressure, providing us only with a continuous measure of change in sound pressure at two locations in space, about 20 cm apart, on either side of the head. From this simple motion arises our rich perception of the acoustic environment around us.
Oxenham and his lab use multiple methods in the study of auditory perception, including behavioral testing, EEG and fMRI. Oxenham's lab is part of the effort in auditory science to map auditory functions to different regions of the brain, closing ground with the ambitious fMRI work in vision science.
Oxenham is also involved in the continuous improvement of cochlear implants and other translational work, bringing advances in science to bear on everyday life. His research on pitch is geared toward understanding how people successfully screen out background noise in order to focus on a specific conversation—the cocktail party problem. In addition, he collaborates with clinicians and other scientists at the U of M and internationally on exploratory efforts to develop new types of auditory implants.
Of note, Oxenham describes that many auditory scientists begin with an interest in music, and he is no exception. Trained as a classical pianist, Oxenham expanded his skills to include jazz piano while in school at Cambridge, thus feeding his love of sound, in addition to his interest in it.
Allen, Emily J., Juraj Mesik, Kendrick N. Kay, and Andrew J. Oxenham. “Distinct Representations of Tonotopy and Pitch in Human Auditory Cortex.” The Journal of Neuroscience 42, no. 3 (January 19, 2022): 416–34. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.0960-21.2021.
Mehta, Anahita H., Lei Feng, and Andrew J. Oxenham. “Neural Auditory Contrast Enhancement in Humans.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118, no. 29 (July 15, 2021). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2024794118.
Oxenham, Andrew J. “How We Hear: The Perception and Neural Coding of Sound.” Annual Review of Psychology 69, no. 1 (January 4, 2018): 27–50. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122216-011635.