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By Jade Wu What do the sounds of whispering, crinkling paper, and tapping fingernails have in common? What about the sight of soft paint brushes on skin, soap being gently cut to pieces, and hand movements like turning the pages of a book? Well, if you are someone who experiences the autonomous sensory meridian response—or ASMR, for short—you may recognize these seemingly ordinary sounds and sights as “triggers” for the ASMR experience. No idea what I’m talking about? Don’t worry, you’re actually in the majority. Most people, myself included, aren’t affected by these triggers. But what happens to those who are? What is the ASMR experience? It’s described as a pleasantly warm and tingling sensation that starts on the scalp and moves down the neck and spine. ASMR burst onto the Internet scene in 2007, according to Wikipedia, when a woman with the username “okaywhatever” described her experience of ASMR sensations in an online health discussion forum. At the time, there was no name for this weird phenomenon. But by 2010, someone called Jennifer Allen had named the experience, and from there, ASMR became an Internet sensation. Today, there are hundreds of ASMR YouTubers who collectively post over 200 videos of ASMR triggers per day, as reported by a New York Times article in April, 2019. Some ASMR YouTubers have become bona fide celebrities with ballooning bank accounts, millions of fans, and enough fame to be stopped on the street for selfies. There’s been some controversy. Some people doubt whether this ASMR experience is “real,” or just the result of recreational drugs or imagined sensations. Some have chalked the phenomenon up to a symptom of loneliness among Generation Z, who get their dose of intimacy from watching strangers pretend to do their makeup without having to interact with real people. Some people are even actively put off by ASMR triggers. One of my listeners, Katie, said that most ASMR videos just make her feel agitated. But another listener, Candace, shared that she has been unknowingly chasing ASMR since she was a child watching BBC. © 2019 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 26873 - Posted: 12.05.2019

Adam Miller · CBC News · New research is shedding light on how the brain interacts with music. It also highlights how challenging it is to study the issue effectively due to the highly personalized nature of how we interpret it. "Music is very subjective," says Dr. Daniel Levitin, a professor of neuroscience and music at McGill University in Montreal and author of the bestselling book This is Your Brain on Music. "People have their own preferences and their own experience and to some extent baggage that they bring to all of this — it is challenging." Levitin says there are more researchers studying the neurological effects of music now than ever before. From 1998 to 2008 there were only four media reports of evidence-based uses of music in research, while from 2009 to 2019 there were 185, Levitin said in a recent paper for the journal Music and Medicine. It's a "great time for music and brain research" because more people are well-trained and skilled at conducting rigorous experiments, according to Levitin. Emerging research reveals challenges A new study by researchers in Germany and Norway used artificial intelligence to analyze levels of "uncertainty" and "surprise" in 80,000 chords from 745 commercially successful pop songs on the U.S. Billboard charts. The research, published Thursday in Current Biology, found that chords provided more pleasure to the listener both when there is uncertainty in anticipating what comes next, and from the surprise the music elicits when the chords deviate from expectations. ©2019 CBC/Radio-Canada

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 26807 - Posted: 11.09.2019

By Jon Cohen On a lightly snowing Sunday evening, a potential participant in Denis Rebrikov’s controversial plans to create gene-edited babies meets with me at a restaurant in a Moscow suburb. She does not want to be identified beyond her patronymic, Yevgenievna. We sit at a corner table in an empty upstairs section of the restaurant while live Georgian music plays downstairs. Yevgenievna, in her late 20s, cannot hear it—or any music. She has been deaf since birth. But with the help of a hearing aid that’s linked to a wireless microphone, which she places on the table, she can hear some sounds, and she is adept at reading lips. She speaks to me primarily in Russian, through a translator, but she is also conversant in English. Yevgenievna and her husband, who is partially deaf, want to have children who will not inherit hearing problems. There is nothing illicit about our discussion: Russia has no clear regulations prohibiting Rebrikov’s plan to correct the deafness mutation in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo. But Yevgenievna is uneasy about publicity. “We were told if we become the first couple to do this experiment we’ll become famous, and HBO already tried to reach me,” Yevgenievna says. “I don’t want to be well known like an actor and have people bother me.” She is also deeply ambivalent about the procedure itself, a pioneering and potentially risky use of the CRISPR genome editor. The couple met on vk.com, a Russian Facebook of sorts, in a chat room for people who are hearing impaired. Her husband could hear until he was 15 years old, and still gets by with hearing aids. They have a daughter—Yevgenievna asks me not to reveal her age—who failed a hearing test at birth. Doctors initially believed it was likely a temporary problem produced by having a cesarean section, but 1 month later, her parents took her to a specialized hearing clinic. “We were told our daughter had zero hearing,” Yevgenievna says. “I was shocked, and we cried.” © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 26732 - Posted: 10.22.2019

By Kelly Servick The brain has a way of repurposing unused real estate. When a sense like sight is missing, corresponding brain regions can adapt to process new input, including sound or touch. Now, a study of blind people who use echolocation—making clicks with their mouths to judge the location of objects when sound bounces back—reveals a degree of neural repurposing never before documented. The research shows that a brain area normally devoted to the earliest stages of visual processing can use the same organizing principles to interpret echoes as it would to interpret signals from the eye. In sighted people, messages from the retina are relayed to a region at the back of the brain called the primary visual cortex. We know the layout of this brain region corresponds to the layout of physical space around us: Points that are next to each other in our environment project onto neighboring points on the retina and activate neighboring points in the primary visual cortex. In the new study, researchers wanted to know whether blind echolocators used this same type of spatial mapping in the primary visual cortex to process echoes. The researchers asked blind and sighted people to listen to recordings of a clicking sound bouncing off an object placed at different locations in a room while they lay in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. The researchers found that expert echolocators—unlike sighted people and blind people who don’t use echolocation—showed activation in the primary visual cortex similar to that of sighted people looking at visual stimuli. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26663 - Posted: 10.02.2019

Ian Sample Science editor When Snowball the sulphur-crested cockatoo revealed his first dance moves a decade ago he became an instant sensation. The foot-tapping, head-bobbing bird boogied his way on to TV talkshows and commercials and won an impressive internet audience. Block-rocking beaks: Snowball the cockatoo – reviewed by our dance critic Read more But that was merely the start. A new study of the prancing parrot points to a bird at the peak of his creative powers. In performances conducted from the back of an armchair, Snowball pulled 14 distinct moves – a repertoire that would put many humans to shame. Footage of Snowball in action shows him smashing Another One Bites the Dust by Queen and Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun with a dazzling routine of head-bobs, foot-lifts, body-rolls, poses and headbanging. In one move, named the Vogue, Snowball moves his head from one side of a lifted foot to another. “We were amazed,” said Aniruddh Patel, a psychology professor at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “There are moves in there, like the Madonna Vogue move, that I just can’t believe.” Advertisement “It seems that dancing to music isn’t purely a product of human culture. The fact that we see this in another animal suggests that if you have a brain with certain cognitive and neural capacities, you are predisposed to dance,” he added. It all started, as some things must, with the Backstreet Boys. In 2008, Patel, who has long studied the origins of musicality, watched a video on the internet of Snowball dancing in time to the band’s track Everybody. He contacted Irena Schulz, who owned the bird shelter where Snowball lived, and with her soon launched a study of Snowball’s dancing prowess. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 26400 - Posted: 07.09.2019

By Matthew Hutson LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA—Spies may soon have another tool to carry out their shadowy missions: a new device that uses sound to “see” around corners. David Lindell Previously, researchers developed gadgets that bounced light waves around corners to catch reflections and see things out of the line of sight. To see whether they could do something similar with sound, another group of scientists built a hardware prototype—a vertical pole adorned with off-the-shelf microphones and small car speakers. The speakers emitted a series of chirps, which bounced off a nearby wall at an angle before hitting a hidden object on another wall—a poster board cutout of the letter H. Scientists then moved their rig bit by bit, each time making more chirps, which bounced back the way they came, into the microphones. Using algorithms from seismic imaging, the system reconstructed a rough image of the letter H (above). The researchers also imaged a setup with the letters L and T and compared their acoustic results with an optical method. The optical method, which requires expensive equipment, failed to reproduce the more-distant L, and it took more than an hour, compared with just 4.5 minutes for the acoustic method. The researchers will present the work here Wednesday at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 26333 - Posted: 06.18.2019

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent A mind-controlled hearing aid that allows the wearer to focus on particular voices has been created by scientists, who say it could transform the ability of those with hearing impairments to cope with noisy environments. The device mimics the brain’s natural ability to single out and amplify one voice against background conversation. Until now, even the most advanced hearing aids work by boosting all voices at once, which can be experienced as a cacophony of sound for the wearer, especially in crowded environments. Nima Mesgarani, who led the latest advance at Columbia University in New York, said: “The brain area that processes sound is extraordinarily sensitive and powerful. It can amplify one voice over others, seemingly effortlessly, while today’s hearing aids still pale in comparison.” This can severely hinder a wearer’s ability to join in conversations, making busy social occasions particularly challenging. Scientists have been working for years to resolve this problem, known as the cocktail party effect. The brain-controlled hearing aid appears to have cracked the problem using a combination of artificial intelligence and sensors designed to monitor the listener’s brain activity. The hearing aid first uses an algorithm to automatically separate the voices of multiple speakers. It then compares these audio tracks to the brain activity of the listener. Previous work by Mesgarani’s lab found that it is possible to identify which person someone is paying attention to, as their brain activity tracks the sound waves of that voice most closely. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 26247 - Posted: 05.18.2019

By Maggie Koerth-Baker Where is the loudest place in America? You might think New York City, or a major airport hub, or a concert you have suddenly become too old to appreciate. But that depends on what kind of noise you’re measuring. Sound is actually a physical thing. What we perceive as noise is the result of air molecules bumping into one another, like a Newton’s cradle toy. That movement eventually reaches our eardrums, which turn that tiny wiggle into an audible signal. But human ears can’t convert all molecular motion to sound. Sometimes the particles are jostling one another too fast. Sometimes they’re too slow. Sometimes, the motion is just happening in the wrong medium — through the Earth, say, instead of through the air. And when you start listening for the sounds we can’t hear, the loudest place in America can end up being right under your feet. Scientists have tools that can detect these “silent” waves, and they’ve found a lot of noise happening all over the U.S. Those noises are made by the cracking of rocks deep in the Earth along natural fault lines and the splashing of whitecaps on the ocean. But they’re also made by our factories, power plants, mines and military. “Any kind of mechanical process is going to generate energetic waves, said Omar Marcillo, staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Some of that goes through the atmosphere as acoustic waves, and some goes through the ground as seismic waves.” Marcillo’s work focuses on the seismic. © 2019 ABC News Internet Ventures.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 26227 - Posted: 05.11.2019

/ By Jed Gottlieb In 1983, The New York Times published a bombshell report about President Ronald Reagan: Starkey Laboratories had fitted the President, then 72, with a hearing aid. The news was welcomed by health professionals who reckoned it could help to reduce the stigma associated with hearing loss. At the time, one in three people over the age of 60 was thought to have hearing problems, though only around 20 percent who needed hearing aids used them. “The way I do the math, a third of all adults have unaddressed hearing issues. That’s lot of people.” Indeed, Reagan’s handlers knew too well that the revelation risked making the president look like a feeble old man — and worse, someone ill-equipped to run the most powerful nation on earth. “Among Presidential advisers,” The New York Times noted, “Mr. Reagan’s use of a hearing aid revived speculation on whether his age would be an issue if he seeks re-election next year.” Reagan won re-election, of course, but nearly 40 years later, negative perceptions persist — and health advocates are more concerned than ever. Hearing loss, they say, is not just a functional disability affecting a subset of aging adults. With population growth and a boom in the global elderly population, the World Health Organization (WHO) now estimates that by 2050, more than 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss. A 2018 study of 3,316 children aged nine to 11 meanwhile, found that 14 percent already had signs of hearing loss themselves. While not conclusive, the study linked the loss to the rise of portable music players. Copyright 2019 Undark

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26124 - Posted: 04.09.2019

Emily Conover Lasers can send sounds straight to a listener’s ear, like whispering a secret from afar. Using a laser tuned to interact with water vapor in the air, scientists created sounds in a localized spot that were loud enough to be picked up by human hearing if aimed near a listener’s ear. It’s the first time such a technique can be used safely around humans, scientists from MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Mass., report in the Feb. 1 Optics Letters. At the wavelengths and intensities used, the laser won’t cause burns if it grazes eyes or skin. The scientists tested out the setup on themselves in the laboratory, putting their ears near the beam to pick up the sound. “You move your head around, and there’s a couple-inch zone where you go ‘Oh, there it is!’… It’s pretty cool,” says physicist Charles Wynn. The researchers also used microphones to capture and analyze the sounds. The work relies on a phenomenon called the photoacoustic effect, in which pulses of light are converted into sound when absorbed by a material, in this case, water vapor. Based on this effect, the researchers used two different techniques to make the sounds. The first technique, which involves rapidly ramping the intensity of the laser beam up and down, can transmit voices and songs. “You can hear the music really well; you can understand what people are saying,” says physicist Ryan Sullenberger, who coauthored the study along with Wynn and physicist Sumanth Kaushik. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 25925 - Posted: 02.02.2019

By Jane E. Brody The earsplitting sound of ambulance sirens in New York City is surely hastening the day when I and many others repeatedly subjected to such noise will be forced to get hearing aids. I just hope this doesn’t happen before 2021 or so when these devices become available over-the-counter and are far less expensive and perhaps more effective than they are now. Currently, hearing aids and accompanying services are not covered by medical insurance, Medicare included. Such coverage was specifically excluded when the Medicare law was passed in 1965, a time when hearing loss was not generally recognized as a medical issue and hearing aids were not very effective, said Dr. Frank R. Lin, who heads the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Now a growing body of research by his colleagues and others is linking untreated hearing loss to several costly ills, and the time has come for hearing protection and treatment of hearing loss to be taken much more seriously. Not only is poor hearing annoying and inconvenient for millions of people, especially the elderly. It is also an unmistakable health hazard, threatening mind, life and limb, that could cost Medicare much more than it would to provide hearing aids and services for every older American with hearing loss. Currently, 38.2 million Americans aged 12 or older have hearing loss, a problem that becomes increasingly common and more severe with age. More than half of people in their 70s and more than 80 percent in their 80s have mild to moderate hearing loss or worse, according to tests done by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2001 and 2010. Two huge new studies have demonstrated a clear association between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia, depression, falls and even cardiovascular diseases. In a significant number of people, the studies indicate, uncorrected hearing loss itself appears to be the cause of the associated health problem. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25834 - Posted: 01.01.2019

By: Robert Zatorre, Ph.D. Human beings seem to have innate musicality. That is, the capacity to understand and derive pleasure from complex musical patterns appears to be culturally universal.1 Musicality is expressed very early in development.2 In this sense, music may be compared to speech—the other cognitively interesting way that we use sound. But whereas speech is most obviously important for communicating propositions or concepts, obtaining such knowledge, this is not the primary function of music. Rather, it is music’s power to communicate emotions, moods, or affective mental states that seems beneficial to our quality of life. Which brings us to the question that forms the title of this article: why do we love music? On its face, there is no apparent reason why a sequence or pattern of sounds that has no specific propositional meaning should elicit any kind of pleasurable response. Yet music is widely considered amongst our greatest joys.3 Where does this phenomenon come from? There are several approaches to this question. A musicologist might have a very different answer than a social scientist. Since I’m a neuroscientist, I would like to address it from that perspective—recognizing that other perspectives may also offer valuable insights. An advantage of neuroscience is that we can relate our answer to established empirical findings and draw from two especially relevant domains: the neuroscience of auditory perception and of the reward system. To give away the punch line of my article, I believe that music derives its power from an interaction between these two systems, the first of which allows us to analyze sound patterns and make predictions about them, and the second of which evaluates the outcomes of these predictions and generates positive (or negative) emotions depending on whether the expectation was met, not met, or exceeded. © 2018 The Dana Foundation

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 25832 - Posted: 01.01.2019

Jennifer Leman Some moths aren’t so easy for bats to detect. The cabbage tree emperor moth has wings with tiny scales that absorb sound waves sent out by bats searching for food. That absorption reduces the echoes that bounce back to bats, allowing Bunaea alcinoe to avoid being so noticeable to the nocturnal predators, researchers report online November 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “They have this stealth coating on their body surfaces which absorbs the sound,” says study coauthor Marc Holderied, a bioacoustician at the University of Bristol in England. “We now understand the mechanism behind it.” Bats sense their surroundings using echolocation, sending out sound waves that bounce off objects and return as echoes picked up by the bats’ supersensitive ears (SN: 9/30/17, p. 22). These moths, without ears that might alert them to an approaching predator, have instead developed scales of a size, shape and thickness suited to absorbing ultrasonic sound frequencies used by bats, the researchers found. The team shot ultrasonic sound waves at a single, microscopic scale and observed it transferring sound wave energy into movement. The scientists then simulated the process with a 3-D computer model that showed the scale absorbing up to 50 percent of the energy from sound waves. What’s more, it isn’t just wings that help such earless moths evade bats. Other moths in the same family as B. alcinoe also have sound-absorbing fur, the same researchers report online October 18 in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 25679 - Posted: 11.14.2018

By Jane E. Brody Jane R. Madell, a pediatric audiology consultant and speech-language pathologist in Brooklyn, N.Y., wants every parent with a child who is born hearing-impaired to know that it is now possible for nearly all children with severe hearing loss to learn to listen and speak as if their hearing were completely normal. “Children identified with hearing loss at birth and fitted with technology in the first weeks of life blend in so well with everyone else that people don’t realize there are so many deaf children,” she told me. With the appropriate hearing device and auditory training for children and their caregivers during the preschool years, even those born deaf “will have the ability to learn with their peers when they start school,” Dr. Madell said. “Eighty-five percent of such children are successfully mainstreamed. Parents need to know that listening and spoken language is a possibility for their children.” Determined to get this message out to all who learn their children lack normal hearing, Dr. Madell and Irene Taylor Brodsky produced a documentary, “The Listening Project,” to demonstrate the enormous help available through modern hearing assists and auditory training. Among the “stars” in the film, all of whom grew up deaf or severely hearing-impaired, are Dr. Elizabeth Bonagura, an obstetrician-gynecologist and surgeon; Jake Spinowitz, a musician; Joanna Lippert, a medical social worker, and Amy Pollick, a psychologist. All started out with hearing aids that helped them learn to speak and understand spoken language. But now all have cochlear implants that, as Ms. Lippert put it, “really revolutionized my world” when, at age 11, she became the first preteen to get a cochlear implant at New York University Medical Center. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 25541 - Posted: 10.08.2018

Craig Richard Have you ever stumbled upon an hourlong online video of someone folding napkins? Or maybe crinkling paper, sorting a thimble collection or pretending to give the viewer an ear exam? They’re called ASMR videos and millions of people love them and consider watching them a fantastic way to relax. Other viewers count them among the strangest things on the internet. So are they relaxing or strange? I think they are both, which is why I have been fascinated with trying to understand ASMR for the past five years. In researching my new book “Brain Tingles,” I explored the many mysteries about ASMR as well as best practices for incorporating ASMR into various aspects of life, like parenting, spas and health studios. ASMR is short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Enthusiast Jennifer Allen coined the term in 2010. You may also hear this phenomenon called “head orgasms” or “brain tingles.” It’s distinct from the “aesthetic chills” or frisson some people experience when listening to music, for instance. People watch ASMR videos in hopes of eliciting the response, usually experienced as a deeply relaxing sensation with pleasurable tingles in the head. It can feel like the best massage in the world – but without anyone touching you. Imagine watching an online video while your brain turns into a puddle of bliss. The actions and sounds in ASMR videos mostly recreate moments in real life that people have discovered spark the feeling. These stimuli are called ASMR triggers. They usually involve receiving personal attention from a caring person. Associated sounds are typically gentle and non-threatening. © 2010–2018, The Conversation US, Inc.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 25498 - Posted: 09.27.2018

By James Gorman It’s not easy to help ducks. Ask Kate McGrew, a masters student in wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. Over two seasons, 2016 and 2017, she spent months raising and working with more than two dozen hatchlings from three different species, all to determine what they hear underwater. This was no frivolous inquiry. Sea ducks, like the ones she trained, dive to catch their prey in oceans around the world and are often caught unintentionally in fish nets and killed. Christopher Williams, a professor at the university who is Ms. McGrew’s adviser, said one estimate puts the number of ducks killed at sea at 400,000 a year, although he said the numbers are hard to pin down. A similar problem plagues marine mammals, like whales, and acoustic devices have been developed to send out pings that warn them away from danger. A similar tactic might work with diving ducks, but first, as Dr. Williams said, it would make sense to answer a question that science hasn’t even asked about diving ducks: “What do they hear?” “There actually is little to no research done on duck hearing in general,” Ms. McGrew said, “and on the underwater aspect of it, there’s even less.” That’s the recipe for a perfect, although demanding research project. Her goal was to use three common species of sea ducks to study a good range of underwater hearing ability. But while you can lead a duck to water and it will paddle around naturally, teaching it to take a hearing test is another matter entirely. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 25389 - Posted: 08.28.2018

Abby Olena Scientists have been looking for years for the proteins that convert the mechanical movement of inner ears’ hair cells into an electrical signal that the brain interprets as sound. In a study published today (August 22) in Neuron, researchers have confirmed that transmembrane channel-like protein 1 (TMC1) contributes to the pore of the so-called mechanotransduction channel in the cells’ membrane. “The identification of the channel has been missing for a long time,” says Anthony Peng, a neuroscientist at the University of Colorado Denver who did not participate in the study. This work “settles the debate as to whether or not [TMC1] is a pore-lining component of the mechanotransduction channel.” When a sound wave enters the cochlea, it wiggles protrusions called stereocilia on both outer hair cells, which amplify the signals, and inner hair cells, which convert the mechanical signals to electric ones and send them to the brain. It’s been tricky to figure out what protein the inner hair cells use for this conversion, because their delicate environment is difficult to recreate in vitro in order to test candidate channel proteins. In 2000, researchers reported on a promising candidate in flies, but it turned out not to be conserved in mammals. In a study published in 2011, Jeffrey Holt of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital and colleagues showed that genes for TMC proteins were necessary for mechanotransduction in mice. This evidence—combined with earlier work from another group showing that mutations in these genes could cause deafness in humans—pointed to the idea that TMC1 formed the ion channel in inner ear hair cells. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 25372 - Posted: 08.24.2018

By Matthew Hutson For millions who can’t hear, lip reading offers a window into conversations that would be lost without it. But the practice is hard—and the results are often inaccurate (as you can see in these Bad Lip Reading videos). Now, researchers are reporting a new artificial intelligence (AI) program that outperformed professional lip readers and the best AI to date, with just half the error rate of the previous best algorithm. If perfected and integrated into smart devices, the approach could put lip reading in the palm of everyone’s hands. “It’s a fantastic piece of work,” says Helen Bear, a computer scientist at Queen Mary University of London who was not involved with the project. Writing computer code that can read lips is maddeningly difficult. So in the new study scientists turned to a form of AI called machine learning, in which computers learn from data. They fed their system thousands of hours of videos along with transcripts, and had the computer solve the task for itself. The researchers started with 140,000 hours of YouTube videos of people talking in diverse situations. Then, they designed a program that created clips a few seconds long with the mouth movement for each phoneme, or word sound, annotated. The program filtered out non-English speech, nonspeaking faces, low-quality video, and video that wasn’t shot straight ahead. Then, they cropped the videos around the mouth. That yielded nearly 4000 hours of footage, including more than 127,000 English words. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25280 - Posted: 08.01.2018

by Juliet Corwin On the deafness scale of mild, moderate, severe or profound, I am profoundly deaf. With the help of cochlear implants, I am able to “hear” and speak. The devices are complicated to explain, but basically, external sound processors, worn behind the ears, send a digital signal to the implants, which convert the signal to electric impulses that stimulate the hearing nerve and provide sound signals to the brain. The implants allow me to attend my middle school classes with few accommodations, but I’m still quite different from people who hear naturally. When my implant processors are turned off, I don’t hear anything. I regard myself as a deaf person, and I am proud to be among those who live with deafness, yet I often feel rejected by some of these same people. My use of cochlear implants and lack of reliance on American Sign Language (I use it but am not fluent — I primarily speak) are treated like a betrayal by many in the Deaf — capital-D — community. In the view of many who embrace Deaf culture, a movement that began in the 1970s, those who are integrated into the hearing world through technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, myself included, are regarded as “not Deaf enough” to be a part of the community. People deaf from birth or through illness or injury already face discrimination. I wish we didn’t practice exclusion among ourselves. But it happens, and it’s destructive. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 25247 - Posted: 07.25.2018

Alison Abbott On a sun-parched patch of land in Rehovot, Israel, two neuroscientists peer into the darkness of a 200-metre-long tunnel of their own design. The fabric panels of the snaking structure shimmer in the heat, while, inside, a study subject is navigating its dim length. Finally, out of the blackness bursts a bat, which executes a mid-air backflip to land upside down, hanging at the tunnel’s entrance. The vast majority of experiments probing navigation in the brain have been done in the confines of labs, using earthbound rats and mice. Ulanovsky broke with the convention. He constructed the flight tunnel on a disused plot on the grounds of the Weizmann Institute of Science — the first of several planned arenas — because he wanted to find out how a mammalian brain navigates a more natural environment. In particular, he wanted to know how brains deal with a third dimension. The tunnel, which Ulanovsky built in 2016, has already proved its scientific value. So have the bats. They have helped Ulanovsky to discover new aspects of the complex encoding of navigation — a fundamental brain function essential for survival. He has found a new cell type responsible for the bats’ 3D compass, and other cells that keep track of where other bats are in the environment. It is a hot area of study — navigation researchers won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and the field is an increasingly prominent fixture at every big neuroscience conference. “Nachum’s boldness is impressive,” says Edvard Moser of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim, Norway, one of the 2014 Nobel laureates. “And it’s paid off — his approach is allowing important new questions to be addressed.” . © 2018 Springer Nature Limited.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 25198 - Posted: 07.12.2018