The hearing precision that lets common barn owls find prey is helping researchers fine tune their quest to diagnose a variety of problems rooted in the human brain, not only with hearing but also with behavior and potentially damaged areas.
University of Oregon researchers have found that barn owls (Tyto alba) are better able to track changes in the location of a noise, such as that made by a potential meal, when the sound source moves horizontally than when the sound changes direction vertically. The discovery was made using an infrared-monitoring procedure that measures pupil dilation responses that are influenced by changes in sound sources around an owl.
“When we are looking at problems of spatial localization, or how to locate sound in a space, the barn owl provides a great system,” said Avinash D.S. Bala, a researcher in the University of Oregon’s Institute of Neuroscience and lead author of a new study.
The findings – published in Aug. 1 issue of PLoS ONE, a journal of the non-profit Public Library of Science – confirms and solidifies the results of an earlier study (Nature, Aug. 14, 2003), in which Bala and colleagues first documented the brain mapping of firing neurons to horizontal changes in the source of noises in the owl’s brain.
Bala was the lead author on both projects, which were done in collaboration with former UO researcher Matthew W. Spitzer, who now is at Monash University in Australia, and principal investigator Terry T. Takahashi, a UO professor of biology and researcher in the Institute of Neuroscience.
“The barn owl has a portion of the midbrain which serves as a map,” Bala said. “Neuron activity can be traced in the map as sound moves. Looking at this map, you can decipher which sounds are being received more actively.”
The new study, in which conclusions were based on the recordings of 62 neurons that represent auditory space, also sheds light on how outside information is converted into electrical activity and transformed into behavior.
“The brain, in the case of spatial hearing, judges neuronal activity in a democratic manner,” Bala said. “It listens to the responses of neurons, and it goes with an approximate average of responses. This has the advantage of reducing environmental noise that is inducing false positives, which would be more common if the owl was depending on only a few neurons. Overall sensitivity might go down, but the probability of an owl actually hitting its prey becomes much higher.”
The monitoring procedure Bala and colleagues have devised, which is in the early stages of human application, has the potential to use the eyes, through changes in the size of the pupil, as a gateway to the human brain. The system would allow for measuring the response to different aspects of sound, such as volume, pitch and location, as well as diagnosing basic sensory deficits and identify areas of damage in the brain.
Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University
Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences