Josh McDermott

Josh McDermott

Chair of Curriculum Committee, Doctoral Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology (SHBT)
Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Josh McDermott

Synopsis of Research Interests:

The Amazing Success of Biological Auditory Systems
Humans routinely perform tasks with sound that remain impossible for even the most powerful and sophisticated machine hearing systems. Following a conversation on a noisy city street, recognizing the sound of keys in a door, learning the sound of a new word - we do such things every day without a second thought. Their difficulty is revealed when we attempt to build machines that replicate our abilities. Understanding how we hear in these situations involves confronting the most challenging computational problems in audition.

Computational Audition
I try to do experiments in humans that reveal how we succeed in situations where machine systems fail, and to use results in machine hearing to motivate new experimental work. Recent work in this vein has targeted sound segregation, sound recognition, and the perception of reverberation.

Natural Sounds
I spend a lot of time studying what naturally occurring sounds are made of, as this holds many clues to how we hear them. Developing good models of natural sounds also allows us to generate novel naturalistic sounds, which have many uses in experiments.

Music Perception
I have long-standing interests in the science of music. I continue to think a lot about what makes music pleasurable, why some things sound good and others do not, and why we have music to begin with. These are big questions, but the right experiments have potential to provide insight. Music also provides great examples of many interesting phenomena in hearing, and as such is a constant source of inspiration for basic hearing research.

Contact Information

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
p: 617-253-7437


Accepting New Students