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By JANE E. BRODY Noise, not age is the leading cause of hearing loss. Unless you take steps now to protect to your ears, sooner or later many of you — and your children — will have difficulty understanding even ordinary speech. Tens of millions of Americans, including 12 percent to 15 percent of school-age children, already have permanent hearing loss caused by the everyday noise that we take for granted as a fact of life. “The sad truth is that many of us are responsible for our own hearing loss,” writes Katherine Bouton in her new book, “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I — and 50 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You.” The cause, she explains, is “the noise we blithely subject ourselves to day after day.” While there are myriad regulations to protect people who work in noisy environments, there are relatively few governing repeated exposure to noise outside the workplace, from portable music devices, rock concerts, hair dryers, sirens, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, vacuum cleaners, car alarms and countless other sources. We live in a noisy world, and every year it seems to get noisier. Ms. Bouton notes that the noise level inside Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas often exceeds that of a chain saw. After poor service, noise is the second leading complaint about restaurants. Proprietors believe that people spend more on food and drink in bustling eateries, and many have created new venues or retrofitted old ones to maximize sound levels. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17946 - Posted: 03.25.2013

By Rachel Ehrenberg BOSTON — For the first time, researchers have snapped pictures of mouse inner ear cells using an approach that doesn’t damage tissue or require elaborate dyes. The approach could offer a way to investigate hearing loss — the most common sensory deficit in the world — and may help guide the placement of cochlear devices or other implants. Inner ear damage and the deafness that results have long challenged scientists. The small delicate cochlea and associated parts are encased in the densest bone in the body and near crucial anatomical landmarks, including the jugular vein, carotid artery and facial nerve, which make them difficult to access. With standard anatomical imaging techniques such as MRI, the inner ear just looks like a small grey blob. “We can’t biopsy it, we can’t image it, so it’s very difficult to figure out why people are deaf,” said ear surgeon and neuroscientist Konstantina Stankovic of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. Stankovic and her colleagues took a peek at inner ear cells using an existing technique called two-photon microscopy. This approach shoots photons at the target tissue, exciting particular molecules that then emit light. The researchers worked with mice exposed to 160 decibels of sound for two hours —levels comparable to the roaring buzz of a snowmobile or power tools. Then they removed the rodents’ inner ears, which includes the spiraled, snail-shaped cochlea and other organs. Instead of cutting into the cochlea, the researchers peered through the “round window” — a middle ear opening covered by a thin membrane that leads to the cochlea. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 17820 - Posted: 02.19.2013

by Kelli Whitlock Burton Having a conversation in a noisy restaurant can be difficult. For many elderly adults, it's often impossible. But with a little practice, the brain can learn to hear above the din, a new study suggests. Age-related hearing loss can involve multiple components, such as the disappearance of sensory cells in the inner ear. But scientists say that part of the problem may stem from our brains. As we get older, our brains slow down—a natural part of aging called neural slowing. One side effect of this sluggishness is the inability to process the fast-moving parts of speech, particularly consonants at the beginning of words that sound alike, such as "b," "p," "g," and "d." Add background noise to the mix and "bad" may sound like "dad," says Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. "Neural slowing especially affects our ability to hear in a noisy background because the sounds we need to hear are acoustically less salient and because noise also taxes our ability to remember what we hear." Building on animal studies that pointed to an increase in neural speed following auditory training, Kraus and colleagues enrolled 67 people aged 55 to 70 years old with no hearing loss or dementia in an experiment. Half the group completed about 2 months of exercises with Brain Fitness, a commercially available auditory training program by Posit Science. (The team has no connection to the company.) The exercises helped participants better identify different speech sounds and distinguish between similar-sounding syllables, such as "ba" or "ta." © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17800 - Posted: 02.14.2013

By KATHERINE BOUTON At a party the other night, a fund-raiser for a literary magazine, I found myself in conversation with a well-known author whose work I greatly admire. I use the term “conversation” loosely. I couldn’t hear a word he said. But worse, the effort I was making to hear was using up so much brain power that I completely forgot the titles of his books. A senior moment? Maybe. (I’m 65.) But for me, it’s complicated by the fact that I have severe hearing loss, only somewhat eased by a hearing aid and cochlear implant. Dr. Frank Lin, an otolaryngologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, describes this phenomenon as “cognitive load.” Cognitive overload is the way it feels. Essentially, the brain is so preoccupied with translating the sounds into words that it seems to have no processing power left to search through the storerooms of memory for a response. Over the past few years, Dr. Lin has delivered unwelcome news to those of us with hearing loss. His work looks “at the interface of hearing loss, gerontology and public health,” as he writes on his Web site. The most significant issue is the relation between hearing loss and dementia. In a 2011 paper in The Archives of Neurology, Dr. Lin and colleagues found a strong association between the two. The researchers looked at 639 subjects, ranging in age at the beginning of the study from 36 to 90 (with the majority between 60 and 80). The subjects were part of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. None had cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study, which followed subjects for 18 years; some had hearing loss. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17787 - Posted: 02.12.2013

by Jacob Aron The mystery of how our brains perceive sound has deepened, now that musicians have smashed a limit on sound perception imposed by a famous algorithm. On the upside this means it should be possible to improve upon today's gold-standard methods for audio perception. Devised over 200 years ago, the Fourier transform is a mathematical process that splits a sound wave into its individual frequencies. It is the most common method for digitising analogue signals and some had thought that brains make use of the same algorithm when turning the cacophony of noise around us into individual sounds and voices. To investigate, Jacob Oppenheim and Marcelo Magnasco of Rockefeller University in New York turned to the Gabor limit, a part of the Fourier transform's mathematics that makes the determination of pitch and timing a trade-off. Rather like the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, the Gabor limit states you can't accurately determine a sound's frequency and its duration at the same time. 13 times better The pair reasoned that if people's hearing obeyed the Gabor limit, this would be a sign that they were using the Fourier transform. But when 12 musicians, some instrumentalists, some conductors, took a series of tests, such as judging slight changes in the pitch and duration of sounds at the same time, they beat the limit by up to a factor of 13. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17775 - Posted: 02.09.2013

By C. CLAIBORNE RAY Q. Nearing 70, I have increasing difficulty hearing conversations, yet music in restaurants is too loud. Why? A. Age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis, is characterized by loss of hair cells in the base of the cochlea, or inner ear, that are attuned to capture and transmit high-frequency sounds, said Dr. Anil K. Lalwani, director of otology, neurotology and skull-base surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. Loss of high-frequency hearing leads to deterioration in the ability to distinguish words in conversation. Additionally, any noise in the environment leads to even greater loss in clarity of hearing. “Contrary to expectation, presbycusis is also associated with sensitivity to loud noises,” Dr. Lalwani said. “This is due to a poorly understood phenomenon called recruitment.” Normally, a specific sound frequency activates a specific population of hair cells located at a specific position within the cochlea. With hearing loss, this specificity is lost, and a much larger population of hair cells in the adjacent areas is “recruited” and also activated, producing sensitivity to noise. “Patients with presbycusis perceive an incremental increase in loudness to be much greater than those with normal hearing,” he said. “This explains why the elderly parent complains that ‘I am not deaf!’ ” when a son or daughter repeats a misheard sentence. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17760 - Posted: 02.05.2013

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News A tiny "genetic patch" can be used to prevent a form of deafness which runs in families, according to animal tests. Patients with Usher syndrome have defective sections of their genetic code which cause problems with hearing, sight and balance. A study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, showed the same defects could be corrected in mice to restore some hearing. Experts said it was an "encouraging" start. There are many types of Usher syndrome tied to different errors in a patient's DNA - the blueprint for building every component of the body. One of those mutations runs in families descended from French settlers in North America. When they try to build a protein called hormonin, which is needed to form the tiny hairs in the ear that detect sound, they do not finish the job. It results in hearing loss at birth and has a similar effect in the eye where it causes a gradual loss of vision. Scientists at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, in Chicago in the US, designed a small strip of genetic material which attaches to the mutation and keeps the body's factories building the protein. There has been something of a flurry of developments in restoring hearing in the past year. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17759 - Posted: 02.05.2013

by Elizabeth Devitt Birds may not have big brains, but they know how to navigate. They wing around town and across continents with amazing accuracy, while we watch and wonder. Biologists believe that sight, smell, and an internal compass all contribute to avian orienteering. But none of these skills completely explains how birds fly long distances or return home from places they've never been. A new study proposes that the animals use infrasound—low-level background noise in our atmosphere—to fly by "images" they hear. These acoustical maps may also explain how other creatures steer. Scientists have long considered infrasound as a navigational cue for birds. But until U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Jonathan Hagstrum in Menlo Park, California, became intrigued by the unexplained loss of almost 60,000 pigeons during a race from France to England in 1997, no one pinpointed how the process worked. The race went bust when the birds' flight route crossed that of a Concorde jet, and Hagstrum wanted to know why. "When I realized the birds in that race were on the same flight path as the Concorde, I knew it had to be infrasound," he says. The supersonic plane laid down a sonic boom when most of the animals were flying across the English Channel. Normally, infrasound is generated when deep ocean waves send pressure waves reverberating into the land and atmosphere. Infrasound can come from other natural causes, such as earthquakes, or humanmade events, such as the acceleration of the Concorde. The long, slow waves move across vast distances. Although humans can't hear them, birds and other animals are able to tune in. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17746 - Posted: 02.02.2013

By Laura Sanders Older people with hearing loss may suffer faster rates of mental decline. People who have hearing trouble suffered meaningful impairments in memory, attention and learning about three years earlier than people with normal hearing, a study published online January 21 in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals. The finding bolsters the idea that hearing loss can have serious consequences for the brain, says Patricia Tun of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., who studies aging. “I’m hoping it will be a real wake-up call in terms of realizing the importance of hearing.” Compared with other senses, hearing is often overlooked, Tun says. “We are made to interact with language and to listen to each other, and it can have damaging effects if we don’t.” Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and colleagues tested the hearing of 1,984 older adults. Most of the participants, who averaged 77 years old, showed some hearing loss — 1,162 volunteers had trouble hearing noises of less than 25 decibels, comparable to a whisper or rustling leaves. The volunteers’ deficits reflect the hearing loss in the general population: Over half of people older than 70 have trouble hearing. Over the next six years, these participants underwent mental evaluations that measured factors such as short-term memory, attention and the ability to quickly match numbers to symbols. Everybody got worse at the tasks as time wore on, but people with hearing loss had an especially sharp decline, the team found. On average, a substantial drop in performance would come about three years earlier to people with hearing loss. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17699 - Posted: 01.22.2013

by Jennifer Viegas The world’s largest archive of animal vocalizations and other nature sounds is now available online. This resource for students, filmmakers, scientists and curious wildlife aficionados took archivists a dozen years to assemble and make ready for the web. “In terms of speed and the breadth of material now accessible to anyone in the world, this is really revolutionary,” audio curator Greg Budney said in a press release, describing the milestone just achieved by the Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “This is one of the greatest research and conservation resources at the Cornell Lab,” added Budney. “And through its digitization, we’ve swung the doors open on it in a way that wasn’t possible 10 or 20 years ago.” The collection goes way back to 1929. It contains nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings equaling more than 10 terabytes of data with a total run time of 7,513 hours. About 9,000 species are represented. Many are birds, but the collection also includes sounds of whales, elephants, frogs, primates and more. “Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world,” explained Macaulay Library director Mike Webster. “Now, it’s also the most accessible. We’re working to improve search functions and create tools people can use to collect recordings and upload them directly to the archive. Our goal is to make the Macaulay Library as useful as possible for the broadest audience possible.” © 2013 Discovery Communications, LLC

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17697 - Posted: 01.19.2013

Search recordings by species: 135793 recordings found

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17696 - Posted: 01.19.2013

by Gretchen Vogel All you graying, half-deaf Def Leppard fans, listen up. A drug applied to the ears of mice deafened by noise can restore some hearing in the animals. By blocking a key protein, the drug allows sound-sensing cells that are damaged by noise to regrow. The treatment isn't anywhere near ready for use in humans, but the advance at least raises the prospect of restoring hearing to some deafened people. When it comes to hearing, hair cells in the inner ear, so named for their bristlelike appearance, keep the process humming along, converting mechanical vibrations caused by sound waves into nerve impulses. Unfortunately for people, loud noises can overwork and destroy the cells. And once they're gone, they're gone: Birds and fish can regenerate the inner ear hair cells, but mammals cannot. Researchers have been looking for ways to reactivate the regenerative potential that other species enjoy. In 2005, scientists used gene therapy to prompt the growth of hair cells in the inner ears of adult guinea pigs, which restored some hearing. However, the drug approach would potentially be much easier to use in the clinic, says Albert Edge, a stem cell biologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. He and his colleagues had previously found that a class of drugs called gamma-secretase inhibitors could prompt the growth of hair cells from inner ear stem cells growing in the lab. The lab also showed that the drugs worked by blocking the signaling of the Notch protein, which helps determine which cells become hair cells and which become support cells during ear development. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17663 - Posted: 01.10.2013

By Diane Mapes The video touched millions: An 8-month old boy smiles with unabashed adoration at his mother as he hears her voice, seemingly for the first time, thanks to a new cochlear implant. Posted on YouTube in April of 2008, the video of "Jonathan's Cochlear Implant Activation" has received more than 3.6 million hits and thousands of comments from viewers, many clamoring for an update. Five-year-old Jonathan is “doing great,” according to his parents, Brigette and Mark Breaux of Houston, Texas. "He's in kindergarten and we're working on speech," Brigette, his 35-year-old stay-at-home mom, told TODAY.com. "He can hear everything that we say to him. It's of course artificial hearing but he can hear and understand what we're saying." After a bout with bacterial meningitis left him deaf, Jonathan Breaux regained hearing with the help of a cochlear implant, and is now a happy 5-year-old. "He's a flirt," adds Mark, a 36-year-old corporate controller. "He was chasing girls around the playground when Brigette went to see him for his class party. He's a handful." © 2013 NBCNews.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17656 - Posted: 01.07.2013

Julian Richards, deputy editor, newscientist.com Let's take it from the top again... Human singing stars these days rely on Auto-Tune technology to produce the right pitch, but this songbird does it the old way - by listening out for its own mistakes. And it's also smart enough to ignore notes that are too far off to be true. Brains monitor their owners' physical actions via the senses, and use this feedback to correct mistakes in those actions. Many models of learning assume that the bigger the perceived mistake, the bigger the correction will be. Samuel Sober at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and Michael Brainard of the University of California, San Francisco, suspected that the system is a bit cleverer than that - otherwise, for instance, a bird might over-correct its singing if it confused external sounds with its own voice, or if its brain made a mistake in processing sounds. They decided to fool Bengalese finches into thinking that they were singing out of tune, and measured what happened at different levels of this apparent tone-deafness. To do this, they fitted the birds with the stylish headphones shown in the photo above and fed them back the sound of their own singing, processed to sound sharper than it really was. The researchers sharpened the birdsong by degrees ranging from a quarter-tone to one-and-a-half tones. They found that the birds learned to "correct" their pitch more accurately and more quickly when they heard a smaller mistake than when they heard a large one. It was also clear that the bird brains took "errors" seriously when they fell within the normal range of pitches in the bird's song: the birds seemed to ignore errors outside this range. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17627 - Posted: 12.22.2012

By Wynne Parry and LiveScience NEW YORK — While jazz musician Vijay Iyer played a piece on the piano, he wore an expression of intense concentration. Afterward, everyone wanted to know: What was going on in his head? The way this music is often taught, "they tell you, you must not be thinking when you are playing," Iyer said after finishing his performance of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," a piece that requires improvisation. "I think that is an impoverished view of what thought is. … Thought is distributed through all of our actions." Iyer's performance opened a panel discussion on music and the mind at the New York Academy of Sciences on Wednesday (Dec. 13). Music elicits "a splash" of activity in many parts of the brain, said panelist Jamshed Bharucha, a neuroscientist and musician, after moderator Steve Paulson of the public radio program "To the Best of Our Knowledge" asked about the brain's response to music. "I think you are asking a question we can only scratch the surface of in terms of what goes on in the brain," Bharucha said. [Why Music Moves Us] Creativity in the brain scanner Charles Limb, a surgeon who studies the neuroscience of music, is attempting to better understand creativity by putting jazz musicians and rappers in a brain-imaging scanner called a functional MRI, which measures blood flow in the brain, and asking them to create music or rap once in there. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17618 - Posted: 12.19.2012

By DOUGLAS MARTIN Dr. William F. House, a medical researcher who braved skepticism to invent the cochlear implant, an electronic device considered to be the first to restore a human sense, died on Dec. 7 at his home in Aurora, Ore. He was 89. The cause was metastatic melanoma, his daughter, Karen House, said. Dr. House pushed against conventional thinking throughout his career. Over the objections of some, he introduced the surgical microscope to ear surgery. Tackling a form of vertigo that doctors had believed was psychosomatic, he developed a surgical procedure that enabled the first American in space to travel to the moon. Peering at the bones of the inner ear, he found enrapturing beauty. Even after his ear-implant device had largely been supplanted by more sophisticated, and more expensive, devices, Dr. House remained convinced of his own version’s utility and advocated that it be used to help the world’s poor. Today, more than 200,000 people in the world have inner-ear implants, a third of them in the United States. A majority of young deaf children receive them, and most people with the implants learn to understand speech with no visual help. Hearing aids amplify sound to help the hearing-impaired. But many deaf people cannot hear at all because sound cannot be transmitted to their brains, however much it is amplified. This is because the delicate hair cells that line the cochlea, the liquid-filled spiral cavity of the inner ear, are damaged. When healthy, these hairs — more than 15,000 altogether — translate mechanical vibrations produced by sound into electrical signals and deliver them to the auditory nerve. Dr. House’s cochlear implant electronically translated sound into mechanical vibrations. His initial device, implanted in 1961, was eventually rejected by the body. But after refining its materials, he created a long-lasting version and implanted it in 1969. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17610 - Posted: 12.17.2012

By WILLIAM J. BROAD When a hurricane forced the Nautilus to dive in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” Captain Nemo took the submarine down to a depth of 25 fathoms, or 150 feet. There, to the amazement of the novel’s protagonist, Prof. Pierre Aronnax, no whisper of the howling turmoil could be heard. “What quiet, what silence, what peace!” he exclaimed. That was 1870. Today — to the dismay of whale lovers and friends of marine mammals, if not divers and submarine captains — the ocean depths have become a noisy place. The causes are human: the sonar blasts of military exercises, the booms from air guns used in oil and gas exploration, and the whine from fleets of commercial ships that relentlessly crisscross the global seas. Nature has its own undersea noises. But the new ones are loud and ubiquitous. Marine experts say the rising clamor is particularly dangerous to whales, which depend on their acute hearing to locate food and one another. To fight the din, the federal government is completing the first phase of what could become one of the world’s largest efforts to curb the noise pollution and return the sprawling ecosystem to a quieter state. The project, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seeks to document human-made noises in the ocean and transform the results into the world’s first large sound maps. The ocean visualizations use bright colors to symbolize the sounds radiating out through the oceanic depths, frequently over distances of hundreds of miles. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17589 - Posted: 12.11.2012

Alla Katsnelson Human eyes, set as they are in front-facing sockets, give us a limited angle of view: we see what is directly in front of us, with only a few degrees of peripheral vision. But bats can broaden and narrow their 'visual field' by modulating the frequency of the squeaks they use to navigate and find prey, researchers in Denmark suggest today in Nature1. Bats find their way through the night by emitting sonar signals and using the echoes that return to them to create a map of their surroundings — a process called echolocation. Researchers have long known that small bats emit higher-frequency squeaks than larger bats, and most assumed that the difference arises because the smaller animals must catch smaller insects, from which low-frequency sound waves with long wavelengths do not reflect well. That didn't sound right to Annemarie Surlykke, a neurobiologist who studies bat echolocation at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. “When you look at the actual frequencies, small bats would be able to detect even the smallest prey they take with a much lower frequency,” she says. “So there must be another reason.” Surlykke and her colleagues decided to test the hypothesis by studying six related species of bat that varied in size. They captured the animals in the wild and set them loose in a flight room — a pitch-dark netted corridor 2.5 metres high, 4.8 metres wide and 7 metres long, rigged on all sides with microphones and infrared cameras. “It’s a pretty confined space, so this corresponds to flying close to vegetation,” says Surlykke. © 2012 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17536 - Posted: 11.26.2012

by Douglas Heaven All the better to hear you with, my dear. A chance discovery has revealed that some insects have evolved mammal-like ears, with an analogous three-part structure that includes a fluid-filled vessel similar to the mammalian cochlea. Fernando Montealegre-Z at the University of Lincoln, UK, and colleagues were studying the vibration of the tympanal membrane – a taut membrane that works like an eardrum – in the foreleg of Copiphora gorgonensis, a species of katydid from the South American rainforest, when they noticed tiny vibrations in the rigid cuticle behind the membrane. When they dissected the leg behind that membrane, they unexpectedly burst a vessel filled with high-pressure fluid. The team analysed the fluid to confirm that it was not part of the insect's circulatory system and concluded instead that it played a cochlea-like role in sound detection. In most insects, sound vibrations transmit directly to neuronal sensors which sit behind the tympanal membrane. Mammals have evolved tiny bones called ossicles that transfer vibrations from the eardrum to the fluid-filled cochlea. The analogous structure in the katydid is a vibrating plate, exposed to the air on one side and fluid on the other. Smallest ear In mammals, the cochlea analyses a sound's frequency – how high or low it is – and the new structure found by the team appears to do the same job. Spanning only 600 micrometres, it is the smallest known ear of its kind in nature. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17497 - Posted: 11.17.2012

by Elizabeth Norton Stop that noise! Many creatures, such as human babies, chimpanzees, and chicks, react negatively to dissonance—harsh, unstable, grating sounds. Since the days of the ancient Greeks, scientists have wondered why the ear prefers harmony. Now, scientists suggest that the reason may go deeper than an aversion to the way clashing notes abrade auditory nerves; instead, it may lie in the very structure of the ear and brain, which are designed to respond to the elegantly spaced structure of a harmonious sound. "Over the past century, researchers have tried to relate the perception of dissonance to the underlying acoustics of the signals," says psychoacoustician Marion Cousineau of the University of Montreal in Canada. In a musical chord, for example, several notes combine to produce a sound wave containing all of the individual frequencies of each tone. Specifically, the wave contains the base, or "fundamental," frequency for each note plus multiples of that frequency known as harmonics. Upon reaching the ear, these frequencies are carried by the auditory nerve to the brain. If the chord is harmonic, or "consonant," the notes are spaced neatly enough so that the individual fibers of the auditory nerve carry specific frequencies to the brain. By perceiving both the parts and the harmonious whole, the brain responds to what scientists call harmonicity. In a dissonant chord, however, some of the notes and their harmonics are so close together that two notes will stimulate the same set of auditory nerve fibers. This clash gives the sound a rough quality known as beating, in which the almost-equal frequencies interfere to create a warbling sound. Most researchers thought that phenomenon accounted for the unpleasantness of a dissonance. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17486 - Posted: 11.13.2012