One major focus of the research in our group are the mechanisms underlying communication processes and related evolutionary adaptations. Our main research method involves psychophysical studies of auditory perception. Applying operant conditioning procedures with food reinforcement, we study auditory processing in different bird species (starling, great tit, barn owl) and mammals (gerbil, human). Our goal is to understand how signal processing has been optimised in the acoustic background provided by the environment. Our studies may provide the basis for the development of technical (e.g. efficient noise reduction, optimal filters) or medical (improvement of speech processing in background noise) applications. In addition, they provide a basis for evaluating the effects of noise on animals in their natural habitat leading to better regulations for protection of the environment. Another goal of our research is the understanding of functional deficits in the auditory system (e.g. in ageing gerbils and humans and in humans with cochlear implants) that may aid in the development of better therapies.
Finally, we are interested in the evolutionary consequences of communication behaviour. For example, our research focuses on the question how animals can judge the quality of a mate based on its behaviour. We combine behavioural studies with modern molecular techniques (e.g. DNA fingerprinting) to investigate the fitness consequences of behaviour. Our current research concentrates on weaver birds and South African shrikes.