Challenging decades of scientific belief that the decoding of sound originates from a preferred side of the brain, UCLA and University of Arizona scientists have demonstrated that right-left differences for the auditory processing of sound start at the ear.
Reported in the Sept. 10 edition of Science, the new research could hold profound implications for rehabilitation of persons with hearing loss in one or both ears, and help doctors enhance speech and language development in hearing-impaired newborns. "From birth, the ear is structured to distinguish between various types of sounds and to send them to the optimal side in the brain for processing," explained Yvonne Sininger, Ph.D., visiting professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Yet no one has looked closely at the role played by the ear in processing auditory signals."
Scientists have long understood that the auditory regions of the two halves of the brain sort out sound differently. The left side dominates in deciphering speech and other rapidly changing signals, while the right side leads in processing tones and music. Because of how the brains neural network is organized, the left half of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the left ear is more directly connected to the right side of the brain.
Elaine Schmidt | EurekAlert!
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