Institute of Neuroscience

Staff Profile

Professor Tim Griffiths

Professor of Cognitive Neurology


I study auditory cognition: central mechanisms by which the brain makes sense of the acoustic world. I examine brain bases for auditory perception, emotion and working memory and assess how these are affected by brain disorders.

My previous work on normal auditory cognition has included brain imaging work with PET, fMRI and MEG in the UK and a collaboration with the neurosurgical team in Iowa to measure local field potentials as a correlate of auditory cognition. The work in Iowa is now in the second NIH funding cycle that involves me. My work in Iowa is a core part of my programme supported by the Wellcome Trust (UK). A postdoctoral worker funded by my programme is specific to the studies carried out by my group. I personally spend more than six weeks per year in Iowa.

I have carried out a number of studies of abnormal auditory cognition related to abnormal peripheral hearing and assessed brain models for tinnitus and musical hallucinations caused by hearing loss.

My current programme, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust and NIH until 2020, addresses aspects of auditory cognition that determine adjustment to hearing loss. Patients with hearing loss do not complain about changes in their pure tone audiogram, they complain about deficits in real-world listening like hearing speech in noise. And speech in noise ability varies widely in patients with similar audiograms. My current programme defines auditory cognitive systems relevant to the detection of speech in noise that contribute to this variation. The systems include a ‘figure-ground system’, those for separating complex objects from noisy backgrounds and a system for working memory for sound. This is addressed using human MEG, direct recordings from neurosurgical subjects and systems modelling.

The programme also includes a clinical component to examine how well measures of auditory figure-ground analysis and working memory for sound predict speech-in-noise abilities in the hearing impaired. The proposed work represents a direct extension of the existing programme. I am now a PI in the Iowa cochlear implant programme.

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Research Interests