Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why you can listen at cocktail parties: Songbirds' individual brain cells are tuned to particular sounds

Date:
November 17, 2010
Source:
Society for Neuroscience
Summary:
Nerve cells in the brains of songbirds are sensitive to specific sounds, and only respond when those sounds occur during communication, a recent study shows. The finding helps explain people's ability to listen to a conversation while in a noisy environment -- the "cocktail party effect."

Nerve cells in the brains of songbirds are sensitive to specific sounds, and only respond when those sounds occur during communication, a recent study shows. The finding helps explain people's ability to listen to a conversation while in a noisy environment -- the "cocktail party effect."

The research was presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego.

"While the cocktail party effect has been well-documented, it is not clear exactly how our brains are able to separate different voices so well," said senior author Frederic Theunissen, PhD, of University of California, Berkeley. "In fact, background noise is a constant challenge for engineers who design hearing aids and voice-recognition systems. Knowledge about how our ears and brains solve this task could lead to substantial improvements in hearing aid performance."

To explore how people filter out different sounds, the researchers focused on the hearing processes of songbirds. The ways that humans learn to speak and birds learn to sing is strikingly similar, and there are also similarities in their brains' auditory structures.

The authors played sound recordings for zebra finches and noted the responses of individual auditory nerve cells. The neurons were exposed to bird songs, non-communicative noises, and combination of the two. Results showed that certain cells responded almost identically to a song note played in quiet and to the same note played over the noise. The study helps identify how these neurons extracted sounds in a challenging environment. "Our group has demonstrated that individual nerve cells can be very good at picking vocalization out of background noise," Theunissen said.

Research was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Society for Neuroscience. "Why you can listen at cocktail parties: Songbirds' individual brain cells are tuned to particular sounds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116210028.htm>.
Society for Neuroscience. (2010, November 17). Why you can listen at cocktail parties: Songbirds' individual brain cells are tuned to particular sounds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116210028.htm
Society for Neuroscience. "Why you can listen at cocktail parties: Songbirds' individual brain cells are tuned to particular sounds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116210028.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. 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