Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Game technology teaches mice, men to hear better in noisy environments

Date:
June 9, 2014
Source:
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
Summary:
A new type of game has been programmed that trained both mice and humans to enhance their ability to discriminate soft sounds in noisy backgrounds. Their findings suggest new therapeutic options for clinical populations that receive little benefit from conventional sensory rehabilitation strategies.

Daniel Polley, Ph.D., is director of the Mass. Eye and Ear's Amelia Peabody Neural Plasticity Unit of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories and assistant professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School.
Credit: Eric Antoniou

The ability to hear soft speech in a noisy environment is difficult for many and nearly impossible for the 48 million in the United States living with hearing loss. Researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School and Harvard University programmed a new type of game that trained both mice and humans to enhance their ability to discriminate soft sounds in noisy backgrounds. Their findings will be published in PNAS Online Early Edition the week of June 9-13, 2014.

Related Articles


In the experiment, adult humans and mice with normal hearing were trained on a rudimentary 'audiogame' inspired by sensory foraging behavior that required them to discriminate changes in the loudness of a tone presented in a moderate level of background noise. Their findings suggest new therapeutic options for clinical populations that receive little benefit from conventional sensory rehabilitation strategies.

"Like the children's game 'hot and cold', our game provided instantaneous auditory feedback that allowed our human and mouse subjects to hone in on the location of a hidden target," said senior author Daniel Polley, Ph.D., director of the Mass. Eye and Ear's Amelia Peabody Neural Plasticity Unit of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories and assistant professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School. "Over the course of training, both species learned adaptive search strategies that allowed them to more efficiently convert noisy, dynamic audio cues into actionable information for finding the target. To our surprise, human subjects who mastered this simple game over the course of 30 minutes of daily training for one month exhibited a generalized improvement in their ability to understand speech in noisy background conditions. Comparable improvements in the processing of speech in high levels of background noise were not observed for control subjects who heard the sounds of the game but did not actually play the game."

The researchers recorded the electrical activity of neurons in auditory regions of the mouse cerebral cortex to gain some insight into how training might have boosted the ability of the brain to separate signal from noise. They found that training substantially altered the way the brain encoded sound.

In trained mice, many neurons became highly sensitive to faint sounds that signaled the location of the target in the game. Moreover, neurons displayed increased resistance to noise suppression; they retained an ability to encode faint sounds even under conditions of elevated background noise.

"Again, changes of this ilk were not observed in control mice that watched (and listened) to their counterparts play the game. Active participation in the training was required; passive listening was not enough," Dr. Polley said.

These findings illustrate the utility of brain training exercises that are inspired by careful neuroscience research. "When combined with conventional assistive devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, 'audiogames' of the type we describe here may be able to provide the hearing impaired with an improved ability to reconnect to the auditory world. Of particular interest is the finding that brain training improved speech processing in noisy backgrounds -- a listening environment where conventional hearing aids offer limited benefit," concluded Dr. Jonathon Whitton, lead author on the paper.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. P. Whitton, K. E. Hancock, D. B. Polley. Immersive audiomotor game play enhances neural and perceptual salience of weak signals in noise. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1322184111

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "Game technology teaches mice, men to hear better in noisy environments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609153427.htm>.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. (2014, June 9). Game technology teaches mice, men to hear better in noisy environments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609153427.htm
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "Game technology teaches mice, men to hear better in noisy environments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609153427.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. 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