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Simon, Jonathan

Jonathan Simon
Associate Professor
2209 A.V. Williams Building

Research Interests 

My broad research goal is to understand how the auditory cortex processes complex sounds such as speech and other natural sounds. Because of my focus on speech and higher order processing, my research uses human rather than animal subjects. To non-invasively record and analyze real-time neural processing in humans, I use magnetoencephalography (MEG), because of its high temporal resolution (milliseconds), reasonable spatial resolution (millimeters), and silent operation. My primary research topics address the question of how the brain turns sound into hearing (surprisingly, the objective sounds impinging upon our ears are not very tightly linked to what we hear). 
Neural computations employ algorithms developed and fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution. As such the computations are typically far beyond the capability of even the most advanced computers. But by identifying, understanding, and quantitatively characterizing the computations performed by the brain, it is possible to determine those algorithms. This computational level of understanding has great potential benefits to engineering applications (e.g. auditory-based identification methods, robust speaker identification, robust speech processing) as well as to health-related applications (hearing aids and cochlear implants that would actually function well in a noisy environment).
The class of neural computations that use the temporal character of the sounds being processed—those for which time plays an important role—are the primary focus of my research. This includes the neural computations employed in the processing of rhythmic sounds, e.g., speech or simple repeating patterns, and in the disentanglement of an individual rhythmic sound from other competing sounds.
Some of my main research areas are: 
• Investigations of how the brain solves the “Cocktail Party” problem, i.e., how, in a crowded and noisy environment, we have the ability to hone in on a single auditory source (e.g. one person talking), while simultaneously suppressing all the remaining interfering sounds
• How the brain represents complex sounds such as human speech
• How the brain’s representations of complex sounds are built up from representations of much simpler building blocks (acoustic modulations)
• Advances in neural signal processing


Jonathan Z. Simon is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland College Park, jointly in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department of Biology, and the Institute for Systems Research. He is a member of the Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science (NACS) and the Program in Bioengineering . His expertise is applied and theoretical neuroscience. He earned his doctorate in physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and did postdoctoral research in theoretical general relativity (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and University of Maryland-College Park) before embracing the field of neuroscience.

Related News 

Jonathan Simon and UMB's Elliot Hong win Research and Innovation Seed Grant
The pair will investigate neural processing in schizophrenia patients with auditory hallucinations. July 2, 2014

Clark School Faculty Promotions Announced
Faculty promoted to full professor, associate professor with tenure. June 5, 2014

Presacco, Heffner, Smith to represent Maryland at Universitas 21
UMD Graduate School travel fellowship funds trip to the international graduate research conference. May 30, 2014

Jonathan Simon Promoted to Full Professor
ECE is proud to announce promotion for Simon whose research delves into unique areas of electrical and computer engineering. May 16, 2014

‘Cocktail party effect’ helps us focus in noisy environments
New research published in Neuron shows cooperation among brain's neural responses. March 7, 2013

Simon is invited speaker at otolaryngology meeting
He will speak on 'cortical encoding of auditory objects at the cocktail party.' January 14, 2013

Jonathan Simon selected for National Academies' NAKFI conference
Conference focuses neuroscience on challenges and opportunities of the digitally connected world. June 1, 2012

MERIT and TREND Fair Showcases Undergrads' Summer Research
Students present their summer research accomplishments to judges at annual fair. August 7, 2009

Annual MERIT and TREND Fair Features Summer Research Projects
Students showcase their summer research accomplishments to judges at annual fair. August 11, 2008

Abshire, Murphy, and Simon Earn Tenure
Three ECE faculty members promoted to rank of associate professor. April 29, 2008