Context Matters… When the Brain Is Interpreting Sound

Wonder why a loud car horn sound may not bother you while you’re indoors, but yet,  that same loud horn sound may send chills up your spine when you hear it while driving or being outdoors?  Well, researchers believe they are getting closer to the answer.

Researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center have been testing mice and their auditory responses to different contextual stimuli.  According to Senior Investigator and neuroscientist Robert Froemke, Ph.D., they found that the same sound could mean different things to mice, depending  on the context of the sounds; and therefore, the mice would react differently, according to the particular contextual stimuli and situation. The mice research demonstrated that brains recognize sound through the auditory cortex, but the reaction or response to the sound stimuli was either strengthened or weakened, according to the context .

Dr. Froemke and his team believe that if the mice nerve cells that are dedicated to hearing heavily rely on the ‘surrounding context’  to appropriately interpret and react to familiar sounds… this could have meaningful implications, if they found this to be true in humans.  It could help to better understand situation-specific  situations, such as phobias and post traumatic stress, among many other issues.

Additionally, these findings have possible ramifications for the study of the Alzheimer’s Disease.  Click HERE to learn about the relationship of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, and how it controls inhibitory neurons. 

How Do the Senses Work Together?

Another study that was conducted at UCLA proposes that the ways in which sight and sound work together is different, according to the type of learning.  They are learning that it is not as easy as you think to understand how the mind perceives and learns.  So, can you really say that you are a visual person and learn visually over other senses?  It just depends on the particular learning.

In a Science Daily article, titled, Brain appears to have different mechanisms for reconciling sight and sound, the Senior Author of the research at UCLA, Ladan Shams, cites that your senses may work together a lot in certain situations, such as watching television, but differently when learning to play a musical instrument or a sport or many other situations.

Associate professor of psychology at UCLA, Ladan Shams, and his team found that depending on the learning situation, the different senses took the lead.  For example, Shams used the example of when you may want to identify the location of flashes and sounds, the visual senses influenced the hearing senses in this situation.  But, if you wanted to COUNT the flashes and sounds, the hearing was the predominant influencer over sight.  It depends on the learning situation.  To learn more, click HERE. 


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