Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain picks out salient sounds from background noise by tracking frequency and time, study finds

Date:
July 23, 2013
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
New research reveals how our brains are able to pick out important sounds from the noisy world around us. The study could lead to new diagnostic tests for hearing disorders.

Noisy crowd. New research reveals how our brains are able to pick out important sounds from the noisy world around us.
Credit: PDU / Fotolia

New research reveals how our brains are able to pick out important sounds from the noisy world around us. The findings, published online today in the journal eLife, could lead to new diagnostic tests for hearing disorders.

Our ears can effortlessly pick out the sounds we need to hear from a noisy environment -- hearing our mobile phone ringtone in the middle of the Notting Hill Carnival, for example -- but how our brains process this information (the so-called 'cocktail party problem') has been a longstanding research question in hearing science.

Researchers have previously investigated this using simple sounds such as two tones of different pitches, but now researchers at UCL and Newcastle University have used complicated sounds that are more representative of those we hear in real life. The team used 'machine-like beeps' that overlap in both frequency and time to recreate a busy sound environment and obtain new insights into how the brain solves this problem.

In the study, groups of volunteers were asked to identify target sounds from within this noisy background in a series of experiments.

Sundeep Teki, a PhD student from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL and joint first author of the study, said: "Participants were able to detect complex target sounds from the background noise, even when the target sounds were delivered at a faster rate or there was a loud disruptive noise between them."

Dr Maria Chait, a senior lecturer at UCL Ear Institute and joint first author on the study, adds: "Previous models based on simple tones suggest that people differentiate sounds based on differences in frequency, or pitch. Our findings show that time is also an important factor, with sounds grouped as belonging to one object by virtue of being correlated in time."

Professor Tim Griffiths, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at Newcastle University and lead researcher on the study, said: "Many hearing disorders are characterised by the loss of ability to detect speech in noisy environments. Disorders like this that are caused by problems with how the brain interprets sound information, rather than physical damage to the ear and hearing machinery, remain poorly understood.

"These findings inform us about a fundamental brain mechanism for detecting sound patterns and identifies a process that can go wrong in hearing disorders. We now have an opportunity to create better tests for these types of hearing problems."

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and Deafness Research UK.


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. Teki S et al. Segregation of complex acoustic scenes based on temporal coherence. eLife, 2013 DOI: 10.7554/elife.00699

Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "Brain picks out salient sounds from background noise by tracking frequency and time, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130723113743.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2013, July 23). Brain picks out salient sounds from background noise by tracking frequency and time, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130723113743.htm
Wellcome Trust. "Brain picks out salient sounds from background noise by tracking frequency and time, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130723113743.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
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