Georgetown researchers make important discovery about areas of brain used in hearing

April 12, 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Two specialized areas of the brain are responsible for certain auditory functions, a team of Georgetown researchers led by Josef P. Rauschecker, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics, has found. This discovery has important implications for scientists seeking to learn more about how humans hear, a process that is still poorly understood. The findings will be published in the April 13 issue of the journal Science.

Rauschecker's research, conducted over the past two and a half years, involved four rhesus monkeys, whose brain structure is similar enough to that of humans to draw valid comparisons. He and his colleagues performed microelectrode recordings on the monkeys while they listened to rhesus-specific communication sounds coming from different locations.

It was known previously that virtually all higher hearing functions take place in the auditory cortex, which is located on either side of the head, above the ears, and receives information from the inner ear and brainstem. However, the Georgetown scientists were able to define certain specialized areas within the auditory cortex that the monkeys used specifically to identify the type and location of sound--areas that up until now had not been pinpointed.

"This is an interesting discovery for not only basic scientists, but for anyone who studies hearing and brain function," Rauschecker said. "We hope that our findings can be more widely used to help solve neurological problems that are still not understood."

Ongoing studies will examine functional specialization directly in the auditory cortex of the human brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This technology allows researchers to observe brain activity in response to certain types of speech sounds and music. "Single-neuron studies in animals remain indispensable nevertheless," Rauschecker says, "if one really wants to understand in sufficient detail how our brain processes such highly complex sounds."
-end-
Georgetown University Medical Center includes a biomedical research enterprise as well as the nationally ranked School of Medicine, and the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

Georgetown University Medical Center

Related Brain Articles from Brightsurf:

Glioblastoma nanomedicine crosses into brain in mice, eradicates recurring brain cancer
A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier in mice could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, new research from the University of Michigan shows.

Children with asymptomatic brain bleeds as newborns show normal brain development at age 2
A study by UNC researchers finds that neurodevelopmental scores and gray matter volumes at age two years did not differ between children who had MRI-confirmed asymptomatic subdural hemorrhages when they were neonates, compared to children with no history of subdural hemorrhage.

New model of human brain 'conversations' could inform research on brain disease, cognition
A team of Indiana University neuroscientists has built a new model of human brain networks that sheds light on how the brain functions.

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.

Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.

Read More: Brain News and Brain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.