Not Seeing Is Hearing?

Hearing improves in mice deprived of visual stimulus for a week, according to a study.

By | February 7, 2014

Fibers (in green) link the thalamus to neurons (in red) in the auditory cortex.EMILY PETRUS AND AMAL ISAIAH

Sensory compensation—where other senses become stronger after one is lost—is not uncommon, but the extent to which the brain is capable of this change was unknown. Researchers have found that the brains of mice kept in a completely dark room for a week showed an increase in activity in the part of the brain used to process sound. Their work was published this week (February 5) in Neuron.

“We were quite surprised to see the changes because there is no known anatomical connection that is directly between these two areas,” coauthor Hey-Kyoung Lee of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore told NPR. “It happened quite rapidly, which I really did not expect.”

The researchers used mice that had passed the critical period for the development of the auditory cortex and kept them in complete darkness for six to eight days. They used electrophysiology to measure responses to sound in visually deprived and control mice. Auditory neurons in the mice that had been in the dark were more sensitive to changes in sound frequency and intensity of tones. The researchers also observed that synapses connecting the auditory cortex, but not the visual cortex, to the thalamus were more robust after mice were kept in the dark. 

The authors are hopeful that temporary visual deprivation could help people who receive cochlear implants and have trouble processing the audio information. “This approach potentially might be useful for humans, where the peripheral hearing is fine, but where the central processing of sound stimuli is altered,” coauthor Patrick Kanold of the University of Maryland told Voice of America.

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Popular Now

  1. First In Vivo Function Found for Animal Circular RNA
  2. A Potential Remedy for the Aging Brain
    The Scientist A Potential Remedy for the Aging Brain

    In mice, injected fragments of a naturally occurring protein boost memory in young and old animals and improve cognition and mobility in a model of neurodegenerative disease. 

  3. Nature Index Identifies Top Contributors to Innovation
  4. Your Body Is Teeming with Weed Receptors
    Features Your Body Is Teeming with Weed Receptors

    And the same endocannabinoid system that translates marijuana's buzz-inducing compounds into a high plays crucial roles in health and disease outside the brain.

AAAS