February 12, 2010

The Sound Of Silence

A team of University of Oregon researchers have isolated an independent processing channel of synapses inside the brain’s auditory cortex that deals specifically with shutting off sound processing at appropriate times. Such regulation is vital for hearing and for understanding speech. The discovery, detailed in the Feb. 11 issue of the journal Neuron, goes against a long-held assumption that the signaling of a sound’s appearance and its subsequent disappearance are both handled by the same pathway. The new finding, which supports an emerging theory that a separate set of synapses is responsible, could lead to new, distinctly targeted therapies such as improved hearing devices, said Michael Wehr, a professor of psychology and member of the UO Institute of Neuroscience. Michael Wehr of the University of Oregon discusses the ramifications of his lab’s newly published findings. Credit: University of Oregon

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