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Mathematical Sciences

Atypical Language in Autism: Can we measure it?

Date: 3:30pm - 4:30pm PST February 18, 2016 Location: John Howard 254

John Howard 254

Jan van Santen, Director
Center for Spoken Language Understanding
Oregon Health & Science University

Learn how computer science skills can be applied in medical research.This center runs an unusual CS program that focuses on speech and language technology, signal processing and machine learning.

Lots of things are said about how people with autism communicate, such usage of “pedantic language”, tending to “talk about the same thing”, or talking in a monotone voice. The question is: are these characterizations accurate? Recent work in our Center has made some real progress in how to measure language use, and have made it possible to take a hard, quantitative look at these characterizations. This work involves a variety of mathematical methods, such as speech signal processing, computational linguistics, and machine learning.

SPEAKER INFO: Jan van Santen obtained his PhD in Mathematical Psychology at the University of Michigan in ’79. He worked initially on visual perception and image processing at New York University and Bell Labs, and then switched to speech technology in ’85. He developed the prosody generation components of the Bell Labs text-to-speech system.  In 2000 he became the Director of the Center for Spoken Language Understanding, now part of the Oregon Health & Science University. Here, he became one of the pioneers of a growing new field: the application of Natural Language Processing algorithms to neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders for diagnostics, remediation, and assistive communication, with special emphasis on autism spectrum disorders. In his spare time, he runs a startup, BioSpeech, that works on algorithms for processing biological sounds, including not only speech but also snoring and rodent calls.

He has written over 100 peer-reviewed papers, was an editor of Speech Communication and of the Journal of Mathematical Psychology, was the editor of a book, Progress in Speech Synthesis, and has seven patents.