Recognising the size of objects from sound

The human senses are more closely connected to one another than was previously believed. This has been proven by psychologist Dr. Cesare Parise of the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) of Bielefeld University in his dissertation. He investigated the way in which the brain compares signals from various sensory channels so that people have a correct impression of their environment. One of Parise’s discoveries is that optically large objects are associated to low-pitched tones and optically small objects are associated with high-pitched tones. Forward-looking with these findings it will be possible to make assistive devices for people with sensory impairment. Parise, who is from Italy, has now been awarded for his research. The Italian Society for Psychology (Associazione Italiana di Psicologia) praised Parise’s study as the best Italian dissertation in experimental psychology in 2012.

The brain processes countless sensory impressions, from hearing and sight to touch and taste. In order to get the most accurate impression of the environment, the brain continually connects information from two or more of these sensory channels. The brain, then, has to decide what information from which channels are related, i.e. have the same source, and which not. “I investigate which characteristics of sensory inputs the brain uses to decide whether they come from the same source and if they can be combined”, explains Parise. In his analysis, he has proved how the brain evaluates whether signals are compatible with one another.

Parise’s study is basic research and provides the basis for the development of novel forms of assistance systems. These could help blind people to perceive the quality of an object.

Cesare Parise wrote his dissertation under the supervision of Professor Dr. Charles Spence PhD (University of Oxford) and Professor Dr. Marc Ernst (Bielefeld University). The Italians Society for Psychology praised the dissertation because of its outstanding importance for scientific research, its creativity, style and scientific quality. Since 2011, Parise has been working at the Cognitive Neurosciences research group of the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC). In addition has been researching at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics.

Dr. Cesare Parise, Universität Bielefeld
Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Phone: + 49 (0) 521 106-5703