Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hearing brains are 'deaf' to disappearance of sounds, study reveals

Date:
September 27, 2012
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
Our brains are better at hearing new and approaching sounds than detecting when a sound disappears, according to a new study. The findings could explain why parents often fail to notice the sudden quiet from the playroom that usually accompanies the onset of mischief.

Our brains are better at hearing new and approaching sounds than detecting when a sound disappears, according to a study published September 27 funded by the Wellcome Trust. The findings could explain why parents often fail to notice the sudden quiet from the playroom that usually accompanies the onset of mischief.

Hearing plays an important role as an early warning system to rapidly direct our attention to new events. Indeed we often rely on sounds to alert us to things that are happening around us before we see them, for example somebody walking into the room while our back is turned to the door. Yet little is known about how our brains make sense of the sounds happening around us and what makes us hear certain events while completely missing others.

Researchers at the UCL Ear Institute wanted to try and understand what makes certain sounds easily detectable while others go unnoticed. They created artificial 'soundscapes' composed of different on-going sounds and asked listeners to detect the onset or disappearance of different sound-objects within the melee.

Overall, the team found that listeners are remarkably tuned to detecting new sounds around them but are much less able to detect when a sound disappears. In busy sound environments, the participants missed more than half of the changes occurring around them and the changes that were detected involved much longer reaction times. The effects were observed even in relatively simple soundscapes and didn't seem to be affected by volume.

Dr Maria Chait, who led the research at the UCL Ear Institute, said: "On the one hand, we might expect to be more sensitive to the appearance of new events. In terms of survival, it is clearly much more important to detect the arrival of a predator than one that has just disappeared. But this reasoning doesn't apply to other situations. Imagine walking in a forest with your friend behind you and suddenly having the sound of their footsteps disappear. Our results demonstrate that there are a large number of potentially urgent events to which we are fundamentally not sensitive. We refer to this phenomenon as 'disappearance blindness'"

The study also explored how resilient listeners are to scene interruptions. In busy scenes, such as those we often face in the world around us, important scene changes frequently coincide in time with other events. The study showed that even brief interruptions, such as a short 'beep' occurring at the same time as the change, are sufficient to make listeners fail to notice larger scene changes. It is thought that this occurs because the interruption briefly captures our attention and prevents the information about the change from reaching our consciousness.

"Understanding what makes certain events pop out and grab attention while others pass by un-noticed is important not only for understanding how we perceive the world but also has important practical applications. For example, to aid the design of devices intended to help professionals such as air traffic controllers and pilots who operate in environments where the detection of change is critical," added Dr Chait.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Francisco Cervantes Constantino, Leyla Pinggera, Supathum Paranamana, Makio Kashino, Maria Chait. Detection of Appearing and Disappearing Objects in Complex Acoustic Scenes. PLoS One, 2012 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046167

Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "Hearing brains are 'deaf' to disappearance of sounds, study reveals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120927174751.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2012, September 27). Hearing brains are 'deaf' to disappearance of sounds, study reveals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120927174751.htm
Wellcome Trust. "Hearing brains are 'deaf' to disappearance of sounds, study reveals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120927174751.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. 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