Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too

24.01.2018

The eyes and ears team up to interpret the sights and sounds around us

Simply moving the eyes triggers the eardrums to move too, says a new study by Duke University neuroscientists.


The eyes and eardrums move in sync.

Credit: Jessi Cruger and David Murphy, Duke University

The researchers found that keeping the head still but shifting the eyes to one side or the other sparks vibrations in the eardrums, even in the absence of any sounds.

Surprisingly, these eardrum vibrations start slightly before the eyes move, indicating that motion in the ears and the eyes are controlled by the same motor commands deep within the brain.

"It's like the brain is saying, 'I'm going to move the eyes, I better tell the eardrums, too,'" said Jennifer Groh, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

The findings, which were replicated in both humans and rhesus monkeys, provide new insight into how the brain coordinates what we see and what we hear. It may also lead to new understanding of hearing disorders, such as difficulty following a conversation in a crowded room.

The paper appeared Jan. 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It's no secret that the eyes and ears work together to make sense of the sights and sounds around us. Most people find it easier to understand somebody if they are looking at them and watching their lips move. And in a famous illusion called the McGurk Effect, videos of lip cues dubbed with mismatched audio cause people to hear the wrong sound.

But researchers are still puzzling over where and how the brain combines these two very different types of sensory information.

"Our brains would like to match up what we see and what we hear according to where these stimuli are coming from, but the visual system and the auditory system figure out where stimuli are located in two completely different ways," said Groh, who holds a joint appointment in the department of neurobiology at Duke. "The eyes are giving you a camera-like snapshot of the visual scene, whereas for sounds, you have to calculate where they are coming from based on differences in timing and loudness across the two ears."

Because the eyes are usually darting about within the head, the visual and auditory worlds are constantly in flux with respect to one another, Groh added.

In an experiment designed by Kurtis Gruters, a formal doctoral student in Groh's lab and co-first author on the paper, 16 participants were asked to sit in a dark room and follow shifting LED lights with their eyes. Each participant also wore small microphones in their ear canals that were sensitive enough to pick up the slight vibrations created when the eardrum sways back and forth.

Though eardrums vibrate primarily in response to outside sounds, the brain can also control their movements using small bones in the middle ear and hair cells in the cochlea. These mechanisms help modulate the volume of sounds that ultimately reach the inner ear and brain, and produce small sounds known as otoacoustic emissions.

Gruters found that when the eyes moved, both eardrums moved in sync with one another, one side bulging inward at the same time the other side bulged outward. They continued to vibrate back and forth together until shortly after the eyes stopped moving. Eye movements in opposite directions produced opposite patterns of vibrations.

Larger eye movements also triggered bigger vibrations than smaller eye movements, the team found.

"The fact that these eardrum movements are encoding spatial information about eye movements means that they may be useful for helping our brains merge visual and auditory space," said David Murphy, a doctoral student in Groh's lab and co-first author on the paper. "It could also signify a marker of a healthy interaction between the auditory and visual systems."

The team, which included Christopher Shera at the University of Southern California and David W. Smith of the University of Florida, is still investigating how these eardrum vibrations impact what we hear, and what role they may play in hearing disorders. In future experiments, they will look at whether up and down eye movements also cause unique signatures in eardrum vibrations.

"The eardrum movements literally contain information about what the eyes are doing," Groh said. "This demonstrates that these two sensory pathways are coupled, and they are coupled at the earliest points."

###

Cole Jenson, an undergraduate neuroscience major at Duke, also coauthored the new study.

CITATION: "The Eardrums Move When the Eyes Move: A Multisensory Effect on the Mechanics of Hearing," K. G. Gruters, D. L. K. Murphy, Cole D. Jensen, D. W. Smith, C. A. Shera and J. M. Groh. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jan. 23, 2018. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1717948115

Media Contact

Kara Manke
kara.manke@duke.edu
919-681-8064

 @DukeU

http://www.duke.edu 

Kara Manke | EurekAlert!

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Indications of Psychosis Appear in Cortical Folding
26.04.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht GLUT5 fluorescent probe fingerprints cancer cells
20.04.2018 | Michigan Technological University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Why we need erasable MRI scans

New technology could allow an MRI contrast agent to 'blink off,' helping doctors diagnose disease

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a widely used medical tool for taking pictures of the insides of our body. One way to make MRI scans easier to read is...

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

World's smallest optical implantable biodevice

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space

26.04.2018 | Life Sciences

First Li-Fi-product with technology from Fraunhofer HHI launched in Japan

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>