ESR2 : Brain markers of between-speaker convergence in conversational speech

PhD fellowship

A dual-EEG recording at the IIT Center for Translational Neurophysiology of Speech and Communication in Ferrara.

Objectives:

When people are engaged in meaningful social interaction, they automatically and implicitly adjust their speech, vocal patterns and gestures to accommodate to others. Although these processes have extensively been explored at the behavioral level, very little is known about their neural underpinnings. Prior investigations have shown that suppression of alpha oscillations, overlaying sensorimotor regions, are a possible marker of action-perception coupling during non-speech interactive tasks (Tognoli & Kelso, 2015). The project, by running dual-EEG recordings, will investigate if behavioral speech alignment translates into identifiable brain oscillatory markers. Key objectives are (i) to develop and validate metrics to quantify phonetic accommodation during natural speech interactions and (ii) to identify electrophysiological markers of between-speaker convergence.


Expected results:

  • A computational pipeline to extract accommodation phonetic patterns from audio data of speakers engaged in a meaningful social interaction;
  • A significant contribution to the emerging field of hyper-scanning by exploring the neurophysiological correlates of phonetic convergence during conversations.

Based in Ferrara, Italy

Full-time three-year contract, starting September 2020

PhD enrolment at: University of Ferrara

Main supervisor’s institution: Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ferrara

Main supervisor: Prof Alessandro D’Ausilio

Secondments:

  • Aix-Marseille University: making-up of linguistic material in both Italian and French, contribution to design of experimental set-up and to phonetic analyses (6 months);
  • Humboldt University and Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS), Berlin: Assessment of a repertoire of metrics for measuring phonetic convergence in conversational speech (5 months).

Co-supervisors’ institutions:

  • Aix-Marseille University, France
  • Humboldt University and Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS), Berlin, Germany

Benefits

The ESR will be contractually employed for 36 months by the main institution, and will be covered under the social security scheme of the enrolling country. She/he will monthly receive a Living Allowance, a Mobility Allowance and a Family Allowance (if applicable) compliant with the applicable EC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions-ITN general conditions.

The net salary for ESR1 will be about €2.300-2.700 according to her/his situation.

Eligibility criteria:

Experience eligibility requirement: Eligible applicants must be in the first 4 years of their research careers (full-time equivalent research experience) at the signature of the contract (measured from the time the Master’s degree has been obtained).

Eligible applicants must not hold a Doctoral Degree yet.

Mobility eligibility requirement

The fellow must not have resided in the main institution’s country for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date, and not have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in that country.

Selection process

February-March 2020: Opening of the call

Applications must be sent to administrative support and contain the following:

  1. An up-to-date CV, without gaps, in order for the selection committee to easily check the mobility and experience requirements. CVs that either do not clearly show the applicant’s past experience, or have gaps, will be considered ineligible;
  2. A letter exposing her/his motivation for a COBRA PhD fellowship, and her preference for two of the fifteen PhD projects proposed in COBRA;
  3. At least 1 reference letter (in English) from one former supervisor and/or lecturer;
  4. The scan of the degree (usually the master’s degree) which would formally entitles her/him to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained, or in the country in which the researcher will be recruited. If the degree has not been obtained yet, the applicant will have to provide a declaration of her/his university stating that the degree will be obtained before the expected starting date;
  5. Transcripts of records (document indicating the applicant’s ranking and marks within her/his master’s degree as well as the courses/modules she/he has followed).

Admissions time-line

  • April 2020: Selection & ranking of pre-selected candidates
  • May 2020: pre-selected candidates’ interviews
  • June 2020: Notification of the selected candidates
  • September-October 2020: beginning of contracts

Additional comments

REQUIRED EDUCATION LEVEL: Master’s degree or equivalent
REQUIRED LANGUAGES: ENGLISH (Good)

Specific Requirements:

Applications must be in English and will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Educational record;
  • Scientific quality of the applicant’s CV;
  • Expected impact and benefit to the fellow and to the project;
  • Previous experiences in the area of the COBRA research programme.

COBRA supports equal opportunity and encourages female researchers to apply for positions.

In the event that the ESR recruited has a disability such that her/his participation in the project is not possible without extra financial support, the host institution will apply for a dedicated Special Needs Lump Sum allowance (SNLS) to the European Commission.


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