Hearing brains are 'deaf' to disappearance of sounds, study reveals
Our brains are better at hearing new and approaching sounds than detecting when a sound disappears, according to a study published today funded by the Wellcome Trust. The findings could explain why parents often fail to notice the sudden quiet from the playroom that usually accompanies the onset of mischief.
Hearing plays an important role as an early warning system to rapidly direct our attention to new events. Indeed we often rely on sounds to alert us to things that are happening around us before we see them, for example somebody walking into the room while our back is turned to the door. Yet little is known about how our brains make sense of the sounds happening around us and what makes us hear certain events while completely missing others.
Researchers at the UCL Ear Institute wanted to try and understand what makes certain sounds easily detectable while others go unnoticed. They created artificial 'soundscapes' comprised of different on-going sounds and asked listeners to detect the onset or disappearance of different sound-objects within the melee.
Overall, the team found that listeners are remarkably tuned to detecting new sounds around them but are much less able to detect when a sound disappears. In busy sound environments, the participants missed more than half of the changes occurring around them and the changes that were detected involved much longer reaction times. The effects were observed even in relatively simple soundscapes and didn't seem to be affected by volume.
Dr Maria Chait, who led the research at the UCL Ear Institute, said: "On the one hand, we might expect to be more sensitive to the appearance of new events. In terms of survival, it is clearly much more important to detect the arrival of a predator than one that has just disappeared. But this reasoning doesn't apply to other situations. Imagine walking in a forest with your friend behind you and suddenly having the sound of their footsteps disappear. Our results demonstrate that there are a large number of potentially urgent events to which we are fundamentally not sensitive. We refer to this phenomenon as 'disappearance blindness'"
The study also explored how resilient listeners are to scene interruptions. In busy scenes, such as those we often face in the world around us, important scene changes frequently coincide in time with other events. The study showed that even brief interruptions, such as a short 'beep' occurring at the same time as the change, are sufficient to make listeners fail to notice larger scene changes. It is thought that this occurs because the interruption briefly captures our attention and prevents the information about the change from reaching our consciousness.
"Understanding what makes certain events pop out and grab attention while others pass by un-noticed is important not only for understanding how we perceive the world but also has important practical applications. For example, to aid the design of devices intended to help professionals such as air traffic controllers and pilots who operate in environments where the detection of change is critical," added Dr Chait.
More information: F. Cervantes Constantino et al. Detection of appearing and disappearing objects in complex acoustic scenes. PLOS ONE, 27 September 2012 [Epub] dx.plos.org/10.137… pone.0046167
Provided by Wellcome Trust
- Can sounds trick the brain into perceiving your body differently? Jul 09, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- The silent gorilla: Intense concentration leaves us 'deaf' to the world around us Jun 20, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- In Brief: The cocktail party problem Jan 04, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- How does the human brain memorize a sound? Jun 03, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Auditory illusion: How our brains can fill in the gaps to create continuous sound Nov 25, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or ...
Neuroscience May 18, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
The neural machinery underlying our olfactory sense continues to be an enigma for neuroscience. A recent review in Neuron seeks to expand traditional ideas about how neurons in the olfactory bulb might encode information about ...
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | 4 / 5 (1) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—What if the quality of your work depends more on your focus on the piano keys or canvas or laptop than your musical or painting or computing skills? If target users can be convinced, they ...
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Neurological disorders can have a devastating impact on the lives of sufferers and their families.
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
If you're a left-brain thinker, chances are you use your right hand to hold your cell phone up to your right ear, according to a newly published study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Neuroscience May 16, 2013 | 2 / 5 (2) | 0 |
In their quest to learn more about the variability of cells between and within tissues, biomedical scientists have devised tools capable of simultaneously measuring dozens of characteristics of individual ...
54 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have turned their view of osteoarthritis (OA) inside out. Literally. Instead of seeing the painful degenerative disease as a problem primarily of the cartilage that cushions joints, ...
54 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A new study looking at sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and markers for Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and neuroimaging adds to the growing body of research linking the two.
4 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
The hunt for an HIV vaccine has gobbled up $8 billion in the past decade, and the failure of the most recent efficacy trial has delivered yet another setback to 26 years of efforts.
4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
The devastating effect of Alzheimer's disease on bilingual people has been thrown into focus in Canada, where the sudden loss of a second language can leave sufferers feeling like strangers in their own country.
2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Regular consumption of coffee is associated with a reduced risk of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an autoimmune liver disease, Mayo Clinic research shows. The findings were being presented at the Digestive Disease ...
12 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |