News / Health

    Simulating Blindness Might Help Improve Hearing

    This enhanced image of a mouse brain shows fibers (green) that connect the thalamus, the midbrain’s switchboard for sensory information to neurons (red) in the auditory cortex. (Credit: Emily Petrus/Amal Isaiah)
    This enhanced image of a mouse brain shows fibers (green) that connect the thalamus, the midbrain’s switchboard for sensory information to neurons (red) in the auditory cortex. (Credit: Emily Petrus/Amal Isaiah)
    Rosanne Skirble
    A new report suggests it might be possible to change the circuitry of the brain to better process sound, a finding that could give renewed hope to the 350 million people worldwide who suffer from hearing loss.  

    Patrick Kanold, an expert on how the brain processes sound and co-author of the new study published in Neuron, says a child's brain is malleable enough to rewire some circuits that process sensory information.  

    "We were interested if, at older ages, we can also coax the brain to change,” he said. 

    To try to do that, the University of Maryland biologist and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University used a reversible technique to simulate blindness by keeping mice with normal vision and normal hearing in complete darkness for a week.  

    LISTEN: Simulating Blindness Might Help Improve Hearing
    Simulating Blindness Might Help Improve Hearingi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    “We want[ed] to know if the deprivation of vision changed the way you hear,” Kanold said.  

    At the end of the week, the mice were put in a sound-proof chamber and subjected to a series of one-note tones to test their hearing. The scientists then measured the neural response.

    University of Maryland Neuroscientist Patrick Kanold records the neuron activity in the auditory cortex of an adult mouse, the part of the brain that processes hearing. (Photo courtesy Patrick Kanold)University of Maryland Neuroscientist Patrick Kanold records the neuron activity in the auditory cortex of an adult mouse, the part of the brain that processes hearing. (Photo courtesy Patrick Kanold)
    x
    University of Maryland Neuroscientist Patrick Kanold records the neuron activity in the auditory cortex of an adult mouse, the part of the brain that processes hearing. (Photo courtesy Patrick Kanold)
    University of Maryland Neuroscientist Patrick Kanold records the neuron activity in the auditory cortex of an adult mouse, the part of the brain that processes hearing. (Photo courtesy Patrick Kanold)
    “And we found that they hear better and that connections in the brain had changed,” Kanold said. "It surprised us because during this [adult] age, if you would alter the auditory experience of mice, the hearing would not change, but we found if you deprive them of vision, the hearing did change.”

    The mice developed more neural connections, and could better discriminate among pitches and hear softer sounds.  

    “These tones could not be distinguished by mice that were raised normally, but could be distinguished by animals that were sitting in the dark," Kanold said. "So they got much better distinguishing these very close by frequencies.”  

    Kanold says while the rodents' sharper hearing reverted back to normal within a few weeks, the experiment demonstrated the adult brain may be less hard-wired than previously thought. By temporarily preventing vision, Kanold says, it may be possible to change the brain circuitry to better process sound.  

    The next step for the researchers is work on making those changes in hearing last longer. Kanold says what they find could lead to treatments for people.

    “This approach potentially might be useful for humans, where the peripheral hearing is fine, but where the central processing of sound stimuli is altered,” he said.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora