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.

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 April 23, 2014 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 April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 22, 2014) Big pharma on the move as Novartis boss, Joe Jimenez, tells Reuters about plans to transform his company via an asset exchange with GSK, and Astra Zeneca shares surge on speculation that Pfizer is looking for a takeover. Joanna Partridge reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is given hands-on demonstrations Tuesday of some of the newest research from DARPA _ the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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