Brain Tracks Frequency and Time to Hear Salient Sounds Research reveals how our brains track frequency and time to pick out important sounds from the noisy world around us. The findings, published online July 23 in the journal eLife, could lead to new diagnostic tests for hearing disorders. Ears effortlessly pick out the sounds we need to ... From the Journals
From the Journals  |   November 01, 2013
Brain Tracks Frequency and Time to Hear Salient Sounds
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Hearing Disorders / From the Journals
From the Journals   |   November 01, 2013
Brain Tracks Frequency and Time to Hear Salient Sounds
The ASHA Leader, November 2013, Vol. 18, 35. doi:10.1044/leader.FTJ4.18112013.35
The ASHA Leader, November 2013, Vol. 18, 35. doi:10.1044/leader.FTJ4.18112013.35
Research reveals how our brains track frequency and time to pick out important sounds from the noisy world around us. The findings, published online July 23 in the journal eLife, could lead to new diagnostic tests for hearing disorders.
Ears effortlessly pick out the sounds we need to hear from a noisy environment—a mobile phone ringtone in the middle of a carnival, for example—but how the brain processes this information (the "cocktail party problem") has been a longstanding question.
Researchers, led by Sundeep Teki of the University College London, used complicated sounds representative of those in real life—"machine-like beeps" that overlap in frequency and time—to re-create a busy sound environment and obtain new insights into how the brain solves this problem.
Ten groups of eight to 10 volunteers (male and female, ages 19–47) with normal hearing and no history of audiological or neurological disorders identified target sounds in a noisy background in a series of 10 experiments. Participants could 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.
Previous models based on simple tones suggest that people differentiate sounds based on differences in frequency, or pitch. The study shows that time is also an important factor, with sounds grouped as belonging to one object by virtue of being correlated in time. These findings provide insight into a fundamental brain mechanism for detecting sound patterns, and identify a process that can go wrong in hearing disorders. The results may lead to better tests for disorders that affect the ability to hear sounds in noisy environments.
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November 2013
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