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Seeing the brain hear reveals surprises about how sound is processed
Date:2/1/2010

ts who used it to study the visual cortex in the mid-2000s. Kanold's study is the first to apply this technique to the auditory cortex and provides an unprecedented amount of detail about how hearing happens.

Dr. Andrew King, Professor of Neurophysiology at the University of Oxford, explains that "The functional organization of the auditory cortex has remained unclear and a matter of some controversy, despite the efforts of many labs over a number of years. The approach used by Dr. Kanold and colleagues is an important advance in this field."

"We discovered that the organization of the cortex does not look as pretty as it does in the textbooks, which surprised us," explains Kanold. "Things are a lot messier than expected." And we don't see evidence of the maps previously proposed using less precise techniques."

But the disorder they found could indicate that the brain is far more adaptable than previously thought. "These results may rewrite our classical views of how cortical circuits are organized and what functions they serve," suggests Dr. Shihab Shamma, whose previous research has involved mapping responses in the auditory cortex using traditional microelectrodes.

By using different dyes, this study measured differences in how the neurons receive sound information (the inputs), and how they process that sound (the outputs). It was previously assumed that neighboring neurons receiving the same inputs would also produce the same outputs, but Kanold's research found something very different. "Neighboring neurons do their own thing by creating different outputs," Kanold explains. "You can imagine that you and your neighbor both receive water to your houses from the same pipe, but you do different things with it you might cook with it while your neighbor waters the lawn. You can't assume that they are doing the same thing just because they are neighbors."

This is the first time that this level of individuality has been
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Contact: Kelly Blake
kellyb@umd.edu
301-405-8203
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert  

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