Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Virtual Ears And The Cocktail Party Effect

Date:
November 29, 2008
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
New research has helped understanding of the so-called 'cocktail party effect' -- how our brains develop the ability to pinpoint and focus on particular sounds among a background of noise.

The 'cocktail party effect' describes how our brains develop the ability to focus on particular sounds among a background of noise.
Credit: iStockphoto/Cat London

Oxford University research has helped understanding of the so-called ‘cocktail party effect’ – how our brains develop the ability to pinpoint and focus on particular sounds among a background of noise.

Related Articles


The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has implications for the emergence of hearing abilities in children and for restoring hearing after fitting hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Humans begin to develop their hearing at a very early stage. Even a 28 week old foetus will respond to sound, and newborn infants can distinguish different types of speech sound. Our hearing continues to develop throughout childhood, including the ability to distinguish between sounds coming from different directions and to understand speech in difficult acoustic environments, such as a busy room with many echoes.

Nerve cells in the superior colliculus, one of the brain regions responsible for processing sound, mature during infancy, gradually developing a preference for specific sound directions. Which of these nerve cells are active therefore signals where sounds are located, forming an auditory map of the environment.

Researchers led by Professor Andrew King, a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, have developed a method that enables the changes in the selectivity of the nerve cells for different directions of space to be to separated out from the development of the auditory map.

The technique, used on ferrets, involves using ‘virtual ears’ which can enable an infant ferret to hear sounds as if it were an adult.

The researchers in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics placed tiny microphones inside the opening of the ears of adult ferrets to capture the sound as modulated by an adult head. This sound, when played back over headphones to an infant ferret, appears to be coming from outside the ferret's head, but mimics what an adult would hear.

By measuring the responses of nerve cells in the brain, the researchers were able to see how the infant brain differs from the adult and to show that the development of the selectivity of the nerve cells for sound location and their assembly into the auditory map are influenced by independent factors.

"Our research showed that the region of space to which the nerve cells respond is determined by the shape of the ferret's ears and their distance apart, both of which change with age," says Professor King. "On the other hand, the gradual development of the auditory map is influenced by the experience of the sounds that are heard."

Professor King believes that this has implications for a child’s ability to learn how to hear after a hearing aid or cochlear implant has been fitted. Other work from this group has shown that even the adult brain is remarkably able to adapt.

"We have shown that the neural circuits of our hearing apparatus can adjust to a loss of hearing in one ear," says Professor King. "Clearly, the adult brain is still plastic and able to adapt, so fitting hearing aids and cochlear implants in adults is worthwhile."

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Virtual Ears And The Cocktail Party Effect." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081119175851.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2008, November 29). Virtual Ears And The Cocktail Party Effect. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081119175851.htm
University of Oxford. "Virtual Ears And The Cocktail Party Effect." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081119175851.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC: Get Vaccinated for Measles

CDC: Get Vaccinated for Measles

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 30, 2015) The CDC is urging people to get vaccinated for measles amid an outbreak that began at Disneyland and has now infected more than 90 people. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama To Outline New Plan For Personalized Medicine

Obama To Outline New Plan For Personalized Medicine

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) President Obama is expected to speak with drugmakers Friday about his Precision Medicine Initiative first introduced last week. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

AP (Jan. 30, 2015) The NFL announced this week that the number of game concussions dropped by a quarter over last season. Still, the dangers of the sport still weigh on players, and parents&apos; minds. (Jan. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 30, 2015) The U.S. has proposed analyzing genetic information from more than 1 million American volunteers to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). 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