Institute of Neuroscience

Staff Profile

Dr Kai Alter

Senior Lecturer



After my studies in Linguistics and Phonetics in Leipzig, Lausanne and Geneva I finished my PhD-thesis on French intonation in 1993. Since 1995 I participated to built up a speaking computer (Concept-to-Speech system) at the Austrian Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Vienna. From 1997 I focussed my research on the Human Brain at the Max-Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. In 1999 I was appointed by the President of the Max-Planck Society as Independent Junior Research Group Leader and worked with my own group on 'Neurocognition of Prosody' using EEG, MEG, and fMRI.


2002 Habilitation University of Leipzig
1994 PhD Linguistics University of Leipzig
1993 post-grade Linguistics University of Geneva
1993 post-grade Phonetics University of Lausanne
1990 Master Linguistics University of Leipzig
1988 Master Russian Language University of Belgorod

Current Position

Senior Lecturer in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Institute of Neuroscience 
Senior Visiting Research Fellow at University of Oxford, Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, Brain & Language Lab

Previous Positions

06/2004 11/2005 University Fellow School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry University of Newcastle
01/2002 05/2004 Associate Professor (German C3) Neurocognition of Prosody Max-Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
06/1999 12/2001 Assistant Professor (German C2) Neurocognition of Prosody Max-Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
01/1998 05/1999 Senior Research Associate Natural Language Processing Austrian Institute for Artificial Intelligence
04/1997 05/1999 Senior Research Associate Neurocognition of Language Processing Max-Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
11/1995 03/1997 Senior Research Associate Natural Language Processing Austrian Institute for Artificial Intelligence
01/1994 10/1995 Research Associate Phonology Group Research Center for Linguistics, Typology, and Universals Berlin
12/1990 12/1993 PhD-student Linguistics University of Leipzig




I am involved in auditory neuroscience leading several projects on speech and language processing employing different behavioural and neuro-imaging methods in both healthy volunteers and patients. In 2015, I have been awarded a Visiting Senior Fellowship at the University of Oxford where I am currently working in their Language & Brain lab.

I have more than 130 publications including about 60 journal papers and enjoy about 4300 citations. Overall, I have co-supervised 15 PhD students and 6 PDRAs. I am currently co-supervising 4 PhD students and 3 PDRAs at both Newcastle University and University of Oxford.

During the past 12 years, I have been awarded with international and national grants at a value of £1.8Million.

Research Interests

Cognitive Neuroscience
• comparison between language and music processing
• comparison between the processing of animal calls and affective speech in humans
• language and animal sound processing in normal and clinical populations
• intra-right hemispheric activations
• modelling of inter-hemispheric connections

Auditory processing
• the biological pathways of sound processing with respect to communication purposes
• developmental aspects of speech & language processing
• speech segmentation on phrase and discourse level using ERPs and fMRI
• processing of durational, tonal, and spectral properties

I am mostly interested in the brain responses during auditory processing in healthy subjects and patients after brain damage. I am trying to find out how different brain areas interact and how affective and prosodic information is processed.

Other Expertise

I have also acted as a reviewer for national and international Research Foundations (Human Frontier Science Program, German Research Foundation, Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research) and for international journals. Most recently, I achieved a Honorary appointment as Research Associate in Neurology by the NHS Trust in Newcastle allowing to continue my work with neurological patients.