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."

Related Articles


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 December 22, 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 December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. 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:

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