MARCS Insight Series

Tuesdays at 11am

All welcome! To receive the zoom link and be added to the mailing list, please email

June 27th
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Pelle Soderstrom

Speech & Language

The role of tone in Swedish speech segmentation

Spoken language has no blank spaces or commas, yet we effortlessly hear speech as being made up of discrete words. This process – known as speech segmentation – is informed by knowledge of the phonotactics and phonology of our native language. Thus, English listeners know that strong syllables constitute possible word onsets, while Finnish listeners take advantage of vowel features to determine which syllables belong to the same word. New findings show how Swedish listeners consider or inhibit possible words based on the prosodic structure of the language, suggesting a speech segmentation role for lexical prosody which has not been explored previously.

July 11th
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Manuel Varlet

Cognitive Neuroscience

Interbrain synchrony in hyperscanning research: pitfalls and alternativesResearch into the neural processes underlying social interaction relies increasingly on hyperscanning methods that record the brain activity of multiple individuals at the same time. Combining hyperscanning with a range of neuroimaging techniques, previous research has revealed enhanced interbrain synchrony between individuals coordinating, cooperating, and communicating. However, here we provide new evidence that highlights critical problems with interbrain synchrony in hyperscanning research. We show using systematic environmental and task manipulations that interbrain synchrony is mostly driven by the synchrony of neural activity patterns across individuals rather than their informational content, and therefore, provides poor estimation of shared information processes in interpersonal coordination. We propose an alternative methodological approach to interbrain synchrony for hyperscanning research, which addresses these issues and yields a better understanding of the neural processes underlying social interaction.

Aug 8th
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Tijl Grootswagers

Cognitive Neuroscience

Using AI-generated synthetic images to drive object responses in the human brainThe human brain effortlessly categorises objects at different levels of abstraction. An important question for our understanding of visual processing is to what extent this categorisation capacity is underpinned or driven by mid-level visual features (e.g., shapes and texture) that co-vary across different categories (e.g., animals or vehicles). Here we addressed this by training two independent Generative Adversarial Networks to produce two categories of novel synthetic stimuli that match the low- and mid-level visual features of either animate or inanimate real objects. Crucially, where these synthetic stimuli have the low- and mid-level visual properties of real objects, they have no associated high-level category labels. We recorded electro-encephalography and behavioural categorisation responses to the synthetic stimuli along with their real counterparts in a na├»ve participant sample. Results revealed animacy-like neural signatures for the synthetic objects that emerged earlier than neural signatures distinguishing the same stimuli from images of real objects. The temporal dynamics of neural responses suggest that successful animacy categorisation of our novel synthetic images was driven by their mid-level visual features. These findings contribute to a precise picture of how image statistics support successful object recognition.

Sept 5th
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Paola Escudero Neyra

Speech & Language

Nurturing Little Multilingual Minds in Australia and the world: Research program motivation, presentation, evaluation and moreWorldwide most children are born in multilingual households. Even in places where monolingualism is prevalent (e.g., Australia), about a third of children grow up listening and speaking languages other than the societal language. Speaking and passing on heritage or home languages (HLs) is crucial to mental health and wellbeing, academic achievement, social inclusion, cultural diversity, community cohesion, economic success, and networking opportunities. However, most countries do not harvest the significant gains that are to be made from speaking more than one language and from maintaining HLs, mainly because formal education is characterised by a monolingual mindset. After going through why and how I decided to turn my language learning expertise into an applied/translational research program, I will present my solution for the HL maintenance and language learning dilemma in Australia and the world. Little Multilingual Minds (LMM) is a research program that partners with universities, multilingual communities, early childhood centres and primary schools to offer a tailor-made and co-designed language exposure program. The main aim is to encourage and elicit children’s HL and L2 speech in a naturalistic, wholistic, play-based manner. The program we offered our first partner, a bilingual childcare centre in Sydney, aimed at solving the HL attrition problems expressed by parents, educators, and directors. These problems included children’s refusal to speak their HL at home and their rapid shift to speaking only English upon starting primary school. We evaluated the program’s efficacy with psycholinguistic tasks for children’s competence in both languages and with learner profiles and assessments conducted after LMM sessions. Results demonstrate that LMM aligns well with early learning and primary school educational principles and that it successfully offsets monolingualism through maintaining/enhancing children’s HL/L2 proficiency. Finally, I will present future directions for the LMM research program and its potential to become a model for enabling and nurturing multilingualism in early childhood and primary education in Australia and the world.

Sept 26th  
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Antonia Goetz


Shaping Linguistic Input: Quality and Quantity in Parent-Infant InteractionsIn the realm of human communication, the variability and adaptability of speech play crucial roles. Our ability to adjust and modify linguistic features based on contextual cues is an inherent characteristic of language use. Intuitively, we employ diverse speech patterns to fulfill specific communicative purposes, tailoring our language to suit the given context. When we communicate with an infant, we inherently use a particular speech register called infant-directed speech (IDS), which is different from the speech we use when communicating with other adults, called adult-directed speech (ADS). From previous research we know IDS (the quality) supports language development. However, not only the quality of parental input is important to shape infants’ linguistic development but also the quantity of parental input. As social interactions (here the parent-infant interaction) are bidirectional, we explore the extent to which parental input is influenced by prelinguistic infants themselves. Our investigation centres on the relationship between infants' temperament and parental language input.

Oct 10th

Ruth Brookman



Oct 31st

Anna Fiveash

Art & Music Sciences


Nov 7th

Greg Cohen



Nov 14th

Apoorva Shivaram & Sue Hespos




John Taylor