Alumnus Receives Psychological and Physiological Acoustics Medal

Roy D. Patterson, Emeritus Professor at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, has been named recipient of the Acoustical Society of America’s Silver Medal in Psychological and Physiological Acoustics for contributions to understanding pitch and timbre perception, and for computational modeling of auditory representations. Patterson earned a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of California, San Diego.

The Silver Medal is presented to individuals for contributions to the advancement of science, engineering, or human welfare through the application of acoustic principles, or through research accomplishments in acoustics. The award will be presented at the 170th meeting of the ASA on November 4, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Dr. Patterson has spent his career trying to understand how the ear and the brain construct the perceptions, or auditory images, that we hear when presented with the sounds of speech and music.

For example, when children and adults say the same words, the acoustic waves arriving at the ear are very different because of the difference in speaker size. Nevertheless, we hear the same speech message (the words). Speech recognition machines have great difficulty with this problem. The data from human listening experiments suggest that the ear and brain construct an internal representation of the speech that is the same for people of all sizes. Patterson and his colleagues have developed a mathematical transform to show how the cochlea and auditory neurons could make such a representation, and how the representation could assist in attempts to produce better speech recognition machines.

He held previous positions at the Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine in Toronto, Canada, the UK Medical Research Council, and as Head of the Centre for the Neural Basis of Hearing at Cambridge University. After spending two years at the University of Plymouth, he returned to the University of Cambridge where he is now an auditory neuroscientist.

“I am thrilled to have been awarded Silver Medal of the Acoustical Society of America. The list of previous medal holders is a list of my scientific heroes – people I have learned from and tried to emulate all my life. I only hope that some of my work will inspire the younger generation as they proceed with their auditory research” said Patterson.

Roy Patterson is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and a Member of the British Society of Audiology. He has published extensively in journals such as Hearing Research, the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and the Journal of Neurophysiology, and is author or coauthor of numerous book chapters.