Sarah Bakst

Speech scientist focusing on role of auditory system in speech production and self-perception




I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Waisman Center at UW-Madison, working under Dr. Caroline Niziolek in the Brain, Language, and Acoustic Behavior (BLAB) lab. My work is funded by an NIH F32 postdoctoral training grant titled "Speech error-detection with degraded auditory inputs." This project investigates how two populations, second-language learners and people with cochlear implants, are able to detect errors in their speech, given that they may not hear their own speech the way native speakers or typically-developing people do. We are imaging auditory cortex with magnetoencephalography (MEG, pictured) and analyzing vowel dynamics in people acquiring new vowel categories in a second language to investigate the role of the auditory system in learning new phonetic categories.

I am also collaborating with Ruth Litovsky's Binaural Hearing and Speech lab. This experiment considers how people with cochlear implants (CIs) use their auditory feedback to detect and correct nascent errors in real time during speech production. The implant filters auditory inputs, providing the user with a spectrally degraded version of their speech. This study aims to find out the acoustic threshold at which CI users can detect errors in their speech, and whether they can rely on this degraded acoustic information to perform real-time error-detection and correction.

Academic CV [pdf 181 KB]

About me

In 2011 I graduated from Harvard University with an A.B. in Linguistics and a secondary field (minor) in Classics. While there I focused mainly on phonology and historical linguistics; my honors thesis gave a phonological account of Ancient Greek pitch accent in clitic groups. I spent the following year studying phonetics at the University of Cambridge and graduated in 2012 with an M.Phil. in Linguistics. In my thesis I used static palatography to revisit an observation by Ladefoged & Bhaskararao (1983) regarding the difference in the articulation of retroflex consonants in Indic and Dravidian languages. In 2017 I completed my Ph.D. in Linguistics at UC Berkeley, where I was advised by Keith Johnson, Susan Lin, and John Houde (UCSF). My graduate work in phonetics studied individual differences in speech production and perception in typical (and typically college-aged) adults.

मुझे हिन्दी आती है । எனக்கு கொஞ்சம் தமிழ் தெரியும், e parlo italiano!

(I speak Hindi, some Tamil, and Italian!)

Contact and Links

1500 Highland Ave., Rm. 483 Madison, WI 53705

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