The brain's auditory system tracks the speed and location of moving sounds in the same way the visual system tracks moving objects. The study recently published in eNeuro lays the groundwork for more detailed research on how humans hear in dynamic environments.
People who use hearing aids have trouble discriminating sounds in busy environments. Understanding if and how the auditory system tracks moving sounds is vital to improving hearing aid technology. Prior research utilizing eye movements to gauge whether the brain is following the trajectory of a moving sound indicates it cannot. A new study from García-Uceda Calvo et al. instead used head movements, a more accurate measure of sound tracking.
The team analyzed head movements of hearing participants as they tracked randomly moving sounds in a dark room. Their analysis revealed humans follow moving sounds, with great accuracy. The auditory system actively tracks the velocity of a sound, just like the visual system, rather than changes in position. The participants improved their sound tracking ability over the course of the experiment, a sign the auditory system was picking up on hidden patterns in the sound trajectories and making predictions. These results indicate the brain possess cells and circuits dedicated to tracking the velocity of sounds.
Paper title: Adaptive Response Behavior in the Pursuit of Unpredictably Moving Sounds
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eNeuro is an online, open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience. Established in 2014, eNeuro publishes a wide variety of content, including research articles, short reports, reviews, commentaries and opinions.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.