Christopher Heffner

PhD, MS

Christopher Heffner.

Christopher Heffner

PhD, MS

Christopher Heffner

PhD, MS

Current Work

If you've ever used an automated voice recognition system, like the ones that process you through customer support on the phone, you have a sense of how hard it is to understand the speech of someone else. If we can't teach a machine to do it, how is it that we humans can understand sentences spoken at a rate of about 300 words per minute? As if life couldn't get more challenging, speech changes, too. Speaker-by-speaker and dialect-by-dialect, people don't all speak in the same way. My research focuses on plasticity in speech perception. In particular, I look at learning and adaptation. We learn new phonetic categories when we learn a new language. We adapt to variation in the speech of others in our native language. These two processes require our brain to be plastic, to change with experience. I study how it does that, and what happens when brains aren't working properly.

Education and Training

  • BA, Linguistics, Michigan State University, 2012
  • ​BS, Psychology, Michigan State University, 2012
  • MS, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, University of Maryland, College Park, 2015
  • PhD, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, University of Maryland, College Park, 2017
  • Postdoc, Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, University of Connecticut, 2017-2020