Kai Alter

Senior Research Fellow
A photograph of Kai Alter


I am mostly interested in the brain responses during auditory processing in healthy subjects and patients after brain damage.

I am trying to find out how different brain areas interact and how affective and prosodic information is processed.






Research Interests:

Cognitive Neuroscience:

  • processing of prosodic and phonological information
  • processing of emotional sounds
  • processing of laughter
  • language processing in normal and clinical populations
  • modelling of inter-hemispheric connections

Auditory processing:

  • the biological pathways of sound processing with respect to communication purposes
  • developmental aspects of speech & language processing
  • speech segmentation on phrase and discourse level using ERPs and fMRI
  • processing of durational, tonal, and spectral properties


Research topics currently under investigation:

- brain reactions to morpho-phonological information encoded in vowels; with Prof Aditi Lahiri, Drs Sandra Kotzor and Beinan Zhou.
- processing of fronted fricatives in English; with Prof Aditi Lahiri, Drs Sandra Kotzor and Beinan Zhou.
- brain responses to intonation and pragmatics; with Dr Brechtje Post, Cambridge.
- understanding sarcasm; with Dr Rachel Mitchell, King’s College and Prof Peter Woodruff, Quatar.
- early brain responses to Mandarin Chinese tones; with Dr Jinxing Yue, Profs Roelien Bastiaanse and David Howard (Groningen, Newcastle).
- brain responses to emotional information encoded in speech and music; with Xiaoluan Liu, UCL.
- processing of laughter; with Prof Dirk Wildgruber, Tuebingen.



2002:   Habilitation, University of Leipzig
1994:   PhD Linguistics, University of Leipzig
1993:   Postgrad Phonetics, University of Lausanne
1993:   Postgrad Linguistics, University of Geneva
1990:   Master Linguistics, University of Leipzig
1990:   Masters French Linguistics
1988:   Master Russian Language, University of Belgorod


Current appointments:

Senior Lecturer in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience at Newcastle University, Institute of Neuroscience

Visiting Senior Research Fellow at University of Oxford, Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, Language & Brain Lab


Previous appointments:

2002 - 2004:      Associate Professor (German C3) Neurocognition of Prosody,
                        Max-Plank Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
1999 - 2001:      Assistant Professor (German C2) Neurocognition of Prosody,
                        Max-Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
1997 - 1999:      Senior Research Associate Neurocognition of Language Processing,
                        Max-Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
1995 - 1997:      Senior Research Associate Natural Language Processing,
                        Austrian Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Vienna
1994 - 1995:      Research Associate, Phonology Group, Research Center for Linguistics,
                        Typology and University of Berlin
1990 - 1993:      PhD student in Linguistics, University of Leipzig



German, French, English: fluent
Russian (needs reanimation)
Master in Italian (needs revival)
Nahuatl (structural knowledge)
Recent Publications:

I have a track record of about 110 publications, including 55 Journal papers, and my h-index is 35. My work has been cited more than 4000 times.

Alter K. Le rire comme element essential de la communication sociale. In: Courtet,C; Besson,M; Lavocat,F; Viala,A, (eds.). Mises en intrigues. Paris: CNRS Editions, 2016, pp.199-210.

Yue J, Bastiaanse R, Alter K. (2014) Cortical plasticity induced by rapid Hebbian learning of novel tonal word-forms: Evidence from mismatch negativity. Brain and Language. 139C:10-22.

Galán F, Baker MR, Alter K, Baker SN. (2015) Degraded EEG decoding of wrist movements in absence of kinaesthetic feedback. Human Brain Mapping. 2015 Feb;36(2):643-54.

Henrich K, Alter K, Wiese R, Domahs U. (2014) The relevance of rhythmical alternation in language processing: an ERP study on English compounds. Brain and Language 136:19-30.

Attaheri A, Kikuchi Y, Milne AE, Wilson B, Alter K. Petkov CI. (in press) EEG potentials associated with artificial grammar learning in the primate brain. Brain and Language.