Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hearing Skills Of Barn Owls Could Map Way To Find Problems In Humans

Date:
August 3, 2007
Source:
University of Oregon
Summary:
The hearing precision that lets common barn owls find prey is helping researchers fine tune their quest to diagnose a variety of problems rooted in the human brain, not only with hearing but also with behavior and potentially damaged areas.

Barn owl peering out of a knothole in a cottonwood tree.
Credit: iStockphoto

The hearing precision that lets common barn owls find prey is helping researchers fine tune their quest to diagnose a variety of problems rooted in the human brain, not only with hearing but also with behavior and potentially damaged areas.

Related Articles


University of Oregon researchers have found that barn owls (Tyto alba) are better able to track changes in the location of a noise, such as that made by a potential meal, when the sound source moves horizontally than when the sound changes direction vertically. The discovery was made using an infrared-monitoring procedure that measures pupil dilation responses that are influenced by changes in sound sources around an owl.

"When we are looking at problems of spatial localization, or how to locate sound in a space, the barn owl provides a great system," said Avinash D.S. Bala, a researcher in the University of Oregon's Institute of Neuroscience and lead author of a new study.

The findings -- published in Aug. 1 issue of PLoS One-- confirms and solidifies the results of an earlier study (Nature, Aug. 14, 2003), in which Bala and colleagues first documented the brain mapping of firing neurons to horizontal changes in the source of noises in the owl's brain.

Bala was the lead author on both projects, which were done in collaboration with former UO researcher Matthew W. Spitzer, who now is at Monash University in Australia, and principal investigator Terry T. Takahashi, a UO professor of biology and researcher in the Institute of Neuroscience.

"The barn owl has a portion of the midbrain which serves as a map," Bala said. "Neuron activity can be traced in the map as sound moves. Looking at this map, you can decipher which sounds are being received more actively."

The new study, in which conclusions were based on the recordings of 62 neurons that represent auditory space, also sheds light on how outside information is converted into electrical activity and transformed into behavior.

"The brain, in the case of spatial hearing, judges neuronal activity in a democratic manner," Bala said. "It listens to the responses of neurons, and it goes with an approximate average of responses. This has the advantage of reducing environmental noise that is inducing false positives, which would be more common if the owl was depending on only a few neurons. Overall sensitivity might go down, but the probability of an owl actually hitting its prey becomes much higher."

The monitoring procedure Bala and colleagues have devised, which is in the early stages of human application, has the potential to use the eyes, through changes in the size of the pupil, as a gateway to the human brain. The system would allow for measuring the response to different aspects of sound, such as volume, pitch and location, as well as diagnosing basic sensory deficits and identify areas of damage in the brain.

The National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders and the McKnight Foundation, a private Minnesota-based philanthropic organization, funded the work through grants to Takahashi. Spitzer was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oregon. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Oregon. "Hearing Skills Of Barn Owls Could Map Way To Find Problems In Humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801091509.htm>.
University of Oregon. (2007, August 3). Hearing Skills Of Barn Owls Could Map Way To Find Problems In Humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801091509.htm
University of Oregon. "Hearing Skills Of Barn Owls Could Map Way To Find Problems In Humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801091509.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

AFP (Jan. 25, 2015) The World Health Organization&apos;s chief on Sunday admitted the UN agency had been caught napping on Ebola, saying it should serve a lesson to avoid similar mistakes in future. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads To 5 States

Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads To 5 States

Newsy (Jan. 24, 2015) Much of the Disneyland measles outbreak is being blamed on the anti-vaccination movement. The CDC encourages just about everyone get immunized. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Growing Measles Outbreak Worries Calif. Parents

Growing Measles Outbreak Worries Calif. Parents

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) Public health officials are rushing to contain a measles outbreak that has sickened 70 people across 6 states and Mexico. The AP&apos;s Raquel Maria Dillon has more. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins