Chapter 9. Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell

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By Freda Kreier Pregnancy can do weird things to the body. For some bats, it can hamper their ability to “see” the world around them. Kuhl’s pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus kuhlii) echolocate less frequently while pregnant, researchers report March 28 in BMC Biology. The change may make it harder for the tiny bats to detect prey and potential obstacles in the environment. The study is among the first to show that pregnancy can shape how nonhuman mammals sense their surroundings, says Yossi Yovel, a neuroecologist at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Nocturnal bats like Kuhl’s pipistrelles famously use sound to navigate and hunt prey in the dark (SN: 9/20/17). Their calls bounce off whatever is nearby and bats use the echoes to reconstruct what’s around them, a process aptly named echolocation. The faster a bat makes calls, the better it can make out its surroundings. But rapid-fire calling requires breathing deeply, which is something that pregnancy can get in the way of. “Although I’ve never been pregnant, I know that when I eat a lot, it’s more difficult to breathe,” Yovel says. So pregnancy — which can add a full gram to a 7-gram Kuhl’s pipistrelle and may push up on the lungs — might hamper echolocation. Yovel and colleagues tested their hypothesis by capturing 10 Kuhl’s pipistrelles, five of whom were pregnant, and training the bats to find and land on a platform. Recordings of the animals’ calls revealed that bats that weren’t pregnant made around 130 calls on average while searching for the platform. But bats that were pregnant made only around 110 calls, or 15 percent fewer. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Hearing; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28774 - Posted: 05.10.2023

By Neelam Bohra Ayla Wing’s middle school students don’t always know what to make of their 26-year-old teacher’s hearing aids. The most common response she hears: “Oh, my grandma has them, too.” But grandma’s hearing aids were never like this: Bluetooth-enabled and connected to her phone, they allow Ms. Wing to toggle with one touch between custom settings. She can shut out the world during a screeching subway ride, hear her friends in noisy bars during a night out and even understand her students better by switching to “mumbly kids.” A raft of new hearing aids have hit the market in recent years, offering greater appeal to a generation of young adults that some experts say is both developing hearing problems earlier in life and — perhaps paradoxically — becoming more comfortable with an expensive piece of technology pumping sound into their ears. Some of the new models, including Ms. Wing’s, are made by traditional prescription brands, which usually require a visit to a specialist. But the Food and Drug Administration opened up the market last year when it allowed the sale of hearing aids over the counter. In response, brand names like Sony and Jabra began releasing their own products, adding to the new wave of designs and features that appeal to young consumers. “These new hearing aids are sexy,” said Pete Bilzerian, a 25-year-old in Richmond, Va., who has worn the devices since he was 7. He describes his early models as distinctly unsexy: “big, funky, tan-colored hearing aids with the molding that goes all around the ear.” But increasingly, those have given way to sleeker, smaller models with more technological capabilities. Nowadays, he said, no one seems to notice the electronics in his ear. “If it ever does come up as a topic, I just brush it off and say, ‘Hey, I got these very expensive AirPods.’” More people in Mr. Bilzerian’s age group might need the equivalent of expensive AirPods, experts say. By the time they turn 30, about a fifth of Americans today have had their hearing damaged by noise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated. This number adds to the already substantial population of young people with hearing loss tied to genetics or medical conditions. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 28770 - Posted: 05.06.2023

By Wynne Parry For the first time, researchers have determined how a human olfactory receptor captures an airborne scent molecule, the pivotal chemical event that triggers our sense of smell. Whether it evokes roses or vanilla, cigarettes or gasoline, every scent starts with free-floating odor molecules that latch onto receptors in the nose. Multitudes of such unions produce the perception of the smells we love, loathe or tolerate. Researchers therefore want to know in granular detail how smell sensors detect and respond to odor molecules. Yet human smell receptors have resisted attempts to visualize how they work in detail — until now. In a recent paper published in Nature, a team of researchers delineated the elusive three-dimensional structure of one of these receptors in the act of holding its quarry, a compound that contributes to the aroma of Swiss cheese and body odor. “People have been puzzled about the actual structure of olfactory receptors for decades,” said Michael Schmuker, who uses chemical informatics to study olfaction at the University of Hertfordshire in England. Schmuker was not involved in the study, which he describes as “a real breakthrough.” He and others who study our sense of smell say that the reported structure represents a step toward better understanding how the nose and brain jointly wring from airborne chemicals the sensations that warn of rotten food, evoke childhood memories, help us find mates and serve other crucial functions. The complexity of the chemistry that the nose detects has made olfaction particularly difficult to explain. Researchers think that human noses possess about 400 types of olfactory receptors, which are tasked with detecting a vastly larger number of odoriferous “volatiles,” molecules that vaporize readily, from the three-atom, rotten-egg-smelling hydrogen sulfide to the much larger, musky-scented muscone. (One recent estimate put the number of possible odor-bearing compounds at 40 billion or more.) == All Rights Reserved © 2023

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28766 - Posted: 05.03.2023

Sara Reardon Octopuses and squids both use the suckers on their limbs to grapple with their prey and to taste their quarry at the same time. Now, a pair of studies describes how these animals ‘taste by touching’ — and how evolution has equipped them with the perfect sensory ability for their lifestyles1,2. The papers were published in Nature on 12 April. The research details the structure of the receptors that stud the animals’ suckers. These receptors transmit information that enables the creature to taste chemicals on a surface independently from those floating in the water. Armed with brains Cephalopods — the group that includes octopuses and squids — have long fascinated neuroscientists because their brains and sensory systems are unlike those found in any other animals. Octopuses, for instance, have more neurons in their arms than in their central brain: a structure that allows each arm to function independently as if it has its own brain3. And researchers have long known that the hundreds of suckers on each arm can both feel the environment and taste it4. Molecular biologist Nicholas Bellono at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his group were studying the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides) when they came across a distinctive structure on the surface of the animal’s tentacle cells. Bellono suspected that this structure acted as a receptor for chemicals in the octopus’s environment. He contacted neurobiologist Ryan Hibbs at the University of California San Diego, who studies receptors that are architecturally similar to the octopus structures found by Bellono’s team: both types consist of five barrel-like proteins clustered to form a hollow tube. When the researchers looked at the octopus genome, they found 26 genes for these barrel-shaped proteins, which could be shuffled to create millions of distinct five-part combinations that detect various tastes1. The researchers found that the octopus receptors tend to bind to ‘greasy’ molecules that don’t dissolve in water, suggesting that they are optimized for detecting chemicals on surfaces such as a fish’s skin, the sea floor or the octopus’s own eggs. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28741 - Posted: 04.15.2023

Nicola Davis Science Correspondent If the sound of someone chewing gum or slurping their tea gets on your nerves, you are not alone. Researchers say almost one in five people in the UK has strong negative reactions to such noises. Misophonia is a disorder in which people feel strong emotional responses to certain sounds, feeling angry, distressed or even unable to function in social or work settings as a result. But just how common the condition is has been a matter of debate. Now researchers say they have found 18.4% of the UK population have significant symptoms of misophonia. “This is the very first study where we have a representative sample of the UK population,” said Dr Silia Vitoratou, first author of the study at King’s College London. “Most people with misophonia think they are alone, but they are not. This is something we need to know [about] and make adjustments if we can.” Writing in the journal Plos One, the team report how they gathered responses from 768 people using metrics including the selective sound sensitivity syndrome scale. This included one questionnaire probing the sounds that individuals found triggering, such as chewing or snoring, and another exploring the impact of such sounds – including whether they affected participants’ social life and whether the participant blamed the noise-maker – as well as the type of emotional response participants felt to the sounds and the intensity of their emotions. As a result, each participant was given an overall score. The results reveal more than 80% of participants had no particular feelings towards sounds such as “normal breathing” or “yawning” but this plummeted to less than 25% when it came to sounds including “slurping”, “chewing gum” and “sniffing”. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Hearing; Attention
Link ID: 28712 - Posted: 03.23.2023

Miryam Naddaf It is thanks to proteins in the nose called odour receptors that we find the smell of roses pleasant and that of rotting food foul. But little is known about how these receptors detect molecules and translate them into scents. Now, for the first time, researchers have mapped the precise 3D structure of a human odour receptor, taking a step forwards in understanding the most enigmatic of our senses. The study, published in Nature on 15 March1, describes an olfactory receptor called OR51E2 and shows how it ‘recognizes’ the smell of cheese through specific molecular interactions that switch the receptor on. “It’s basically our first picture of any odour molecule interacting with one of our odour receptors,” says study co-author Aashish Manglik, a pharmaceutical chemist at the University of California, San Francisco. Smell mystery The human genome contains genes encoding 400 olfactory receptors that can detect many odours. Mammalian odour-receptor genes were first discovered in rats by molecular biologist Richard Axel and biologist Linda Buck in 19912. Researchers in the 1920s estimated that the human nose could discern around 10,000 smells3, but a 2014 study suggests that we can distinguish more than one trillion scents4. Each olfactory receptor can interact with only a subset of smelly molecules called odorants — and a single odorant can activate multiple receptors. It is “like hitting a chord on a piano”, says Manglik. “Instead of hitting a single note, it’s a combination of keys that are hit that gives rise to the perception of a distinct odour.” Beyond this, little is known about exactly how olfactory receptors recognize specific odorants and encode different smells in the brain. Technical challenges in producing mammalian olfactory-receptor proteins using standard laboratory methods have made it difficult to study how these receptors bind to odorants. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28710 - Posted: 03.18.2023

By Dana Mackenzie On October 2, 2022, four days after Hurricane Ian hit Florida, a search-and-rescue Rottweiler named Ares was walking the ravaged streets of Fort Myers when the moment came that he had been training for. Ares picked up a scent within a smashed home and raced upstairs, with his handler trailing behind, picking his way gingerly through the debris. They found a man who had been trapped inside his bathroom for two days after the ceiling caved in. Some 152 people died in Ian, one of Florida’s worst hurricanes, but that lucky man survived thanks to Ares’ ability to follow a scent to its source. We often take for granted the ability of a dog to find a person buried under rubble, a moth to follow a scent plume to its mate or a mosquito to smell the carbon dioxide you exhale. Yet navigating by nose is more difficult than it might appear, and scientists are still working out how animals do it. “What makes it hard is that odors, unlike light and sound, don’t travel in a straight line,” says Gautam Reddy, a biological physicist at Harvard University who coauthored a survey of the way animals locate odor sources in the 2022 Annual Review of Condensed Matter Physics. You can see the problem by looking at a plume of cigarette smoke. At first it rises and travels in a more or less straight path, but very soon it starts to oscillate and finally it starts to tumble chaotically, in a process called turbulent flow. How could an animal follow such a convoluted route back to its origin? Over the last couple of decades, a suite of new high-tech tools, ranging from genetic modification to virtual reality to mathematical models, have made it possible to explore olfactory navigation in radically different ways. The strategies that animals use, as well as their success rates, turn out to depend on a variety of factors, including the animal’s body shape, its cognitive abilities and the amount of turbulence in the odor plume. One day, this growing understanding may help scientists develop robots that can accomplish tasks that we now depend on animals for: dogs to search for missing people, pigs to search for truffles and, sometimes, rats to search for land mines. © 2023 Annual Reviews

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28692 - Posted: 03.08.2023

By Veronique Greenwood It is the rare person who likes hearing their own voice on a recording. It sounds fake, somehow — like it belongs to someone else. For neuroscientists, that quality of otherness is more than a curiosity. Many mysteries remain about the origins of hallucinations, but one hypothesis suggests that when people hear voices, they are hearing their own thoughts disguised as another person’s by a quirk of the brain. Scientists would like to understand what parts of the brain allow us to recognize ourselves speaking, but studying this using recordings of people’s own voices has proved tricky. When we talk, we not only hear our voice with our ears, but on some level we feel it as the sound vibrations travel through the bones of the skull. A study published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science attempted a workaround. A team of researchers investigated whether people could more accurately recognize their voices if they wore bone-conduction headphones, which transmit sound via vibration. They found that sending a recording through the facial bones made it easier for people to tell their voices apart from those of strangers, suggesting that this technology provides a better way to study how we can tell when we are speaking. That is a potentially important step in understanding the origins of hallucinated voices. Recordings of our voices tend to sound higher than we expect, said Pavo Orepic, a postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology who led the study. The vibration of the skull makes your voice sound deeper to yourself than to a listener. But even adjusting recordings so they sound lower doesn’t recreate the experience of hearing your own voice. As an alternative, the team tried using bone-conduction headphones, which are commercially available and often rest on a listener’s cheekbones just in front of the ear. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Hearing
Link ID: 28669 - Posted: 02.15.2023

By Erin Garcia de Jesús A female giraffe has a great Valentine’s Day gift for potential mates: urine. Distinctive anatomy helps male giraffes get a taste for whether a female is ready to mate, animal behaviorists Lynette and Benjamin Hart report January 19 in Animals. A pheromone-detecting organ in giraffes has a stronger connection to the mouth than the nose, the researchers found. That’s why males scope out which females to mate with by sticking their tongues in a urine stream. Animals such as male gazelles will lick fresh urine on the ground to track if females are ready to mate. But giraffes’ long necks and heavy heads make bending over to investigate urine on the ground an unstable and vulnerable position, says Lynette Hart, of the University of California, Davis. The researchers observed giraffes (Giraffa giraffa angolensis) in Etosha National Park in Namibia in 1994, 2002 and 2004. Bull giraffes nudged or kicked the female to ask her to pee. If she was a willing participant, she urinated for a few seconds, while the male took a sip. Then the male curled his lip and inhaled with his mouth, a behavior called a flehmen response, to pull the female’s scent into two openings on the roof of the mouth. From the mouth, the scent travels to the vomeronasal organ, or VNO, which detects pheromones. The Harts say they never saw a giraffe investigate urine on the ground. Unlike many other mammals, giraffes have a stronger oral connection — via a duct — to the VNO, than a nasal one, examinations of preserved giraffe specimens showed. One possible explanation for the difference could be that a VNO-nose link helps animals that breed at specific times of the year detect seasonal plants, says Benjamin Hart, a veterinarian also at the University of California, Davis. But giraffes can mate any time of year, so the nasal connection may not matter as much. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste); Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 28664 - Posted: 02.15.2023

By Erin Blakemore Tinnitus — a ringing or whistling sound in the ears — plagues millions worldwide. Though the estimates of those bothered by the condition vary, a new study suggests they may have something in common: exposure to road traffic noise at home. The paper, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, looked to Denmark to find a potential link between road noise and tinnitus levels. The nationwide study included data on 3.5 million Danish residents who were 30 and older between 2000 and 2017. Over that time, 40,692 were diagnosed with tinnitus. When the researchers calculated likely traffic and noise levels at the quietest facade of their residences in that period, they found those living with louder road noise were more likely to be diagnosed with tinnitus than those who lived in quieter areas. People’s risk rose 6 percent with every 10-decibel increase in road traffic noise compared with controls. Levels rose the longer a person had been exposed to higher road traffic noise. Women, people without a previous history of hearing loss, and people with higher education and income were at increased risk. The study did not find an association between railway noise and tinnitus diagnoses. Though the paper shows an association between tinnitus and traffic noise, it does not prove that one causes the other. The researchers say it’s important to learn more about the potential effects of residential noise exposure — and posit that if traffic noise does cause tinnitus, it might do so by disrupting people’s sleep. “We know that traffic noise can make us stressed and affect our sleep. And that tinnitus can get worse when we live under stressful situations and we do not sleep well,” said Jesper Hvass Schmidt, an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark and the paper’s co-author, in a news release.

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 28661 - Posted: 02.11.2023

Niyazi Arslan Cochlear implants are among the most successful neural prostheses on the market. These artificial ears have allowed nearly 1 million people globally with severe to profound hearing loss to either regain access to the sounds around them or experience the sense of hearing for the first time. However, the effectiveness of cochlear implants varies greatly across users because of a range of factors, such as hearing loss duration and age at implantation. Children who receive implants at a younger age may may be able to acquire auditory skills similar to their peers with natural hearing. I am a researcher studying pitch perception with cochlear implants. Understanding the mechanics of this technology and its limitations can help lead to potential new developments and improvements in the future. In fully-functional hearing, sound waves enter the ear canal and are converted into neural impulses as they move through hairlike sensory cells in the cochlea, or inner ear. These neural signals then travel through the auditory nerve behind the cochlea to the central auditory areas of the brain, resulting in a perception of sound. Analysis of the world, from experts People with severe to profound hearing loss often have damaged or missing sensory cells and are unable to convert sound waves into electrical signals. Cochlear implants bypass these hairlike cells by directly stimulating the auditory nerve with electrical pulses. Cochlear implants consist of an external part wrapped behind the ear and an internal part implanted under the skin. © 2010–2023, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Hearing; Robotics
Link ID: 28639 - Posted: 01.25.2023

By Chris Gorski At first glance, saliva seems like pretty boring stuff, merely a convenient way to moisten our food. But the reality is quite different, as scientists are beginning to understand. The fluid interacts with everything that enters the mouth, and even though it is 99 percent water, it has a profound influence on the flavors — and our enjoyment — of what we eat and drink. “It is a liquid, but it’s not just a liquid,” says oral biologist Guy Carpenter of King’s College London. Scientists have long understood some of saliva’s functions: It protects the teeth, makes speech easier and establishes a welcoming environment for foods to enter the mouth. But researchers are now finding that saliva is also a mediator and a translator, influencing how food moves through the mouth and how it sparks our senses. Emerging evidence suggests that interactions between saliva and food may even help to shape which foods we like to eat. The substance is not very salty, which allows people to taste the saltiness of a potato chip. It’s not very acidic, which is why a spritz of lemon can be so stimulating. The fluid’s water and salivary proteins lubricate each mouthful of food, and its enzymes such as amylase and lipase kickstart the process of digestion. This wetting also dissolves the chemical components of taste, or tastants, into saliva so they can travel to and interact with the taste buds. Through saliva, says Jianshe Chen, a food scientist at Zhejiang Gongshang University in Hangzhou, China, “we detect chemical information of food: the flavor, the taste.” © 2023 Annual Reviews

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28637 - Posted: 01.25.2023

Miryam Naddaf Researchers have made transgenic ants whose antennae glow green under a microscope, revealing how the insects’ brains process alarming smells. The findings identify three unique brain regions that respond to alarm signals. In these areas, called glomeruli, the ants’ nerve endings intersect. The work was posted on the bioRxiv preprint server on 29 December 20221 and has not yet been peer reviewed. “Ants are like little walking chemical factories,” says study co-author Daniel Kronauer, a biologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City. Previous research has focused on identifying the chemicals that ants release or analysing the insects’ behavioural responses to these odours, but “how ants can actually smell the pheromones is really only now becoming a little bit clearer”, says Kronauer. “This is the first time that, in a social insect, a particular glomerulus has been associated very strongly with a particular behaviour,” he adds. Smelly signals Ants are social animals that communicate with each other by releasing scented chemicals called pheromones. The clonal raider ants (Ooceraea biroi) that the researchers studied are blind. “They basically live in a world of smells,” says Kronauer. “So the vast amount of their social behaviour is regulated by these chemical compounds.” When an ant perceives danger, it releases alarm pheromones from a gland in its head to warn its nestmates. Other ants respond to this signal by picking up their larvae and evacuating the nest. “Instead of having dedicated brain areas for face recognition or language processing, ants have a massively expanded olfactory system,” says Kronauer. The researchers created transgenic clonal raider ants by injecting the insects’ eggs with a vector carrying a gene for a green fluorescent protein combined with one that expresses a molecule that indicates calcium activity in the brain. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28632 - Posted: 01.18.2023

By Carolyn Wilke Mammals in the ocean swim through a world of sound. But in recent decades, humans have been cranking up the volume, blasting waters with noise from shipping, oil and gas exploration and military operations. New research suggests that such anthropogenic noise may make it harder for dolphins to communicate and work together. When dolphins cooperated on a task in a noisy environment, the animals were not so different from city dwellers on land trying to be heard over a din of jackhammers and ambulance sirens. They yelled, calling louder and longer, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology. “Even then, there’s a dramatic increase in how often they fail to coordinate,” said Shane Gero, a whale biologist at Carleton University in Ottawa who wasn’t part of the work. The effect of increasing noise was “remarkably clear.” Scientists worked with a dolphin duo, males named Delta and Reese, at an experimental lagoon at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys. The pair were trained to swim to different spots in their enclosure and push a button within one second of each other. “They’ve always been the most motivated animals. They were really excited about doing the task,” said Pernille Sørensen, a biologist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Bristol in England. The dolphins talked to each other using whistles and often whistled right before pressing the button, she said. Ms. Sørensen’s team piped in sounds using underwater speakers. Tags, stuck behind the animals’ blowholes, captured what the dolphins heard and called to each other as well as their movements. Through 200 trials with five different sound environments, the team observed how the dolphins changed their behavior to compensate for loud noise. The cetaceans turned their bodies toward each other and paid greater attention to each other’s location. At times, they nearly doubled the length of their calls and amplified their whistles, in a sense shouting, to be heard above cacophonies of white noise or a recording of a pressure washer. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Communication; Hearing
Link ID: 28628 - Posted: 01.14.2023

Miryam Naddaf Stimulating neurons that are linked to alertness helps rats with cochlear implants learn to quickly recognize tunes, researchers have found. The results suggest that activity in a brain region called the locus coeruleus (LC) improves hearing perception in deaf rodents. Researchers say the insights are important for understanding how the brain processes sound, but caution that the approach is a long way from helping people. “It’s like we gave them a cup of coffee,” says Robert Froemke, an otolaryngologist at New York University School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, published in Nature on 21 December1. Cochlear implants use electrodes in the inner-ear region called the cochlea, which is damaged in people who have severe or total hearing loss. The device converts acoustic sounds into electrical signals that stimulate the auditory nerve, and the brain learns to process these signals to make sense of the auditory world. Some people with cochlear implants learn to recognize speech within hours of the device being implanted, whereas others can take months or years. “This problem has been around since the dawn of cochlear implants, and it shows no signs of being resolved,” says Gerald Loeb at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who helped to develop one of the first cochlear implants. Researchers say that a person’s age, the duration of their hearing loss and the type of processor and electrodes in the implant don’t account for this variation, but suggest that the brain could be the source of the differences. “It’s sort of the black box,” says Daniel Polley, an auditory neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Most previous research has focused on improving the cochlear device and the implantation procedure. Attempts to improve the brain’s ability to use the device open up a way to improve communication between the ear and the brain, says Polley. © 2022 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 28615 - Posted: 12.28.2022

By Kelsey Ables Persistent loss of smell has left some covid-19 survivors yearning for the scent of their freshly bathed child or a waft of their once-favorite meal. It’s left others inured to the stink of garbage and accidentally drinking spoiled milk. “Anosmia,” as experts call it, is one of long covid’s strangest symptoms — and researchers may be one step closer to figuring it out what causes it and how to fix it. A small study published online on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine and led by researchers at Duke University, Harvard and the University of California San Diego offers a theory, and new insight, into lingering smell loss. Scientists analyzed samples of olfactory epithelial tissue — where smell cells live — from 24 biopsies, nine of which were from post-covid patients struggling with persistent loss of smell. Although the sample was small, the results suggest that the sensory deficit is linked to an ongoing immune attack on cells responsible for smell — which endures even after the virus is gone — and a decline in the number of olfactory nerve cells. Bradley Goldstein, associate professor in Duke’s Department of Head and Neck Surgery and Communication Sciences and the Department of Neurobiology, an author on the paper, called the results “striking” and said in a statement, “It’s almost resembling a sort of autoimmune-like process in the nose.” While there has been research that looks at short-term smell loss and uses animal models, the new study is notable because it focuses on persistent smell loss and uses high-tech molecular analysis on human tissue. The study reflects enduring interest in the mysterious symptom. In July, researchers estimated that at least 5.6 percent of covid-19 patients develop chronic smell problems. That study, published in the peer-reviewed medical trade publication BMJ, also suggested that women as well as those who had more severe initial dysfunction were less likely to recover their sense of smell. Seniors are also especially vulnerable, The Post has reported.

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28613 - Posted: 12.28.2022

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Music makes you lose control, Missy Elliott once sang on a hit that is almost impossible to hear without bopping along. Now scientists have discovered that rats also find rhythmic beats irresistible, showing how they instinctively move in time to music. This ability was previously thought to be uniquely human and scientists say the discovery provides insights into the animal mind and the origins of music and dance. “Rats displayed innate – that is, without any training or prior exposure to music – beat synchronisation,” said Dr Hirokazu Takahashi of the University of Tokyo. “Music exerts a strong appeal to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition,” he added. While there have been previous demonstrations of animals dancing along to music – TikTok has a wealth of examples – the study is one of the first scientific investigations of the phenomenon. In the study, published in the journal Science Advances, 10 rats were fitted with wireless, miniature accelerometers to measure the slightest head movements. They were then played one-minute excerpts from Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, at four different tempos: 75%, 100%, 200% and 400% of the original speed. Twenty human volunteers also participated. The scientists thought it possible that rats would prefer faster music as their bodies, including heartbeat, work at a faster pace. By contrast, the time constant of the brain is surprisingly similar across species. © 2022 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 28547 - Posted: 11.13.2022

By Elena Renken The brain’s lifeline, its network of blood vessels, is like a tree, says Mathieu Pernot, deputy director of the Physics for Medicine Paris Lab. The trunk begins in the neck with the carotid arteries, a pair of broad channels that then split into branches that climb into the various lobes of the brain. These channels fork endlessly into a web of tiny vessels that form a kind of canopy. The narrowest of these vessels are only wide enough for a single red blood cell to pass through, and in one important sense these vessels are akin to the tree’s leaves. “When you want to look at pathology, usually you don’t see the sickness in the tree, but in the leaves,” Pernot says. (You can identify Dutch Elm Disease when the tree’s leaves yellow and wilt.) Just like leaves, the tiniest blood vessels in the brain often register changes in neuron and synapse activity first, including illness, such as new growth in a cancerous brain tumor.1, 2 But only in the past decade or so have we developed the technology to detect these microscopic changes in blood flow: It’s called ultrafast ultrasound. Standard ultrasound is already popular in clinical imaging given that it is minimally invasive, low-cost, portable, and can generate images in real time.3 But until now, it has rarely been used to image the brain. That’s partly because the skull gets in the way—bone tends to scatter ultrasound waves—and the technology is too slow to detect blood flow in the smaller arteries that support most brain function. Neurologists have mostly used it in niche applications: to examine newborns, whose skulls have gaps between the bone plates, or to guide surgeons in some brain surgeries, where part of the skull is typically removed. Neuroscience researchers have also used it to study functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain, based on imaging of the major cerebral arteries, by positioning the device over the temporal bone window, the thinnest area of the skull. © 2022 NautilusThink Inc,

Keyword: Brain imaging; Hearing
Link ID: 28536 - Posted: 11.02.2022

Elizabeth Pennisi Think of the chattiest creatures in the animal kingdom and songbirds, dolphins, and—yes—humans probably come to mind. Turtles probably don’t register. But these charismatic reptiles also communicate using a large repertoire of clicks, snorts, and chortles. Now, by recording the “voices” of turtles and other supposedly quiet animals, scientists have concluded that all land vertebrate vocalizations—from the canary’s song to the lion’s roar—have a common root that dates back more than 400 million years. The findings imply animals began to vocalize very early in their evolutionary history—even before they possessed well-developed ears, says W. Tecumseh Fitch, a bioacoustician at the University of Vienna who was not involved with the work. “It suggests our ears evolved to hear these vocalizations.” Several years ago, University of Arizona evolutionary ecologist John Wiens and his graduate student Zhuo Chen started looking into the evolutionary roots of acoustic communication—basically defined as the sounds animals make with their mouths using their lungs. Combing the scientific literature, the duo compiled a family tree of all the acoustic animals known at the time, eventually concluding such soundmaking abilities arose multiple times in vertebrates between 100 million and 200 million years ago. But Gabriel Jorgewich-Cohen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Zürich, noticed an oversight: turtles. Though Wiens and Chen had found that only two of 14 families of turtles made sounds, he was finding a lot more. He spent 2 years recording 50 turtle species in the act of “speaking.”

Keyword: Hearing; Evolution
Link ID: 28530 - Posted: 10.28.2022

By Diana Kwon A Scottish woman named Joy Milne made headlines in 2015 for an unusual talent: her ability to sniff out people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative illness that is estimated to affect nearly a million people in the U.S. alone. Since then a group of scientists in the U.K. has been working with Milne to pinpoint the molecules that give Parkinson’s its distinct olfactory signature. The team has now zeroed in on a set of molecules specific to the disease—and has created a simple skin-swab-based test to detect them. Milne, a 72-year-old retired nurse from Perth, Scotland, has hereditary hyperosmia, a condition that endows people with a hypersensitivity to smell. She discovered that she could sense Parkinson’s with her nose after noticing her late husband, Les, was emitting a musky odor that she had not detected before. Eventually, she linked this change in scent to Parkinson’s when he was diagnosed with the disease many years later. Les passed away in 2015. In 2012 Milne met Tilo Kunath, a neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, at an event organized by the research and support charity Parkinson’s UK. Although skeptical at first, Kunath and his colleagues decided to put Milne’s claims to the test. They gave her 12 T-shirts, six from people with Parkinson’s and six from healthy individuals. She correctly identified the disease in all six cases—and the one T-shirt from a healthy person she categorized as having Parkinson’s belonged to someone who went on to be diagnosed with the disease less than a year later. Advertisement Subsequently, Kunath, along with chemist Perdita Barran of the University of Manchester in England and her colleagues, has been searching for the molecules responsible for the change in smell that Milne can detect. The researchers used mass spectrometry to identify types and quantities of molecules in a sample of sebum, an oily substance found on the skin’s surface. They discovered changes to fatty molecules known as lipids in people with Parkinson’s. © 2022 Scientific American

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste); Parkinsons
Link ID: 28510 - Posted: 10.13.2022