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Listen Up: Focus on Hearing

  June, 4 2009 8:33
your information resource in human molecular genetics

How do we hear? Nature Neuroscience presents a special focus issue this week on the neurobiology of hearing. Seven perspective and review articles cover recent advances in our understanding of how sounds are converted into neural signals, how these processes go wrong in hearing loss, and what attempts to rectify such hearing loss tell us about brain function.

While hearing loss affects the majority of older adults, its manifestation in children can have dire consequences, as it impedes proper development. As discussed by Christine Petit and Guy Richardson, research on patients with genetic mutations affecting hearing loss has been informative about how hearing works in normal populations. Stefan Heller and John Brigande provide a critical overview of current research on stem cell treatments for ameliorating such hearing loss. In addition, David Moore and Robert Shannon discuss the ability of the brain to learn how to use cochlear implants, devices that convert sound into neural signals, and the importance of understanding this process to the future of implant technology.

Animal auditory research can throw light on functions seemingly unique to humans, such as speech, as discussed by Josef Rauschecker and Sophie Scott. Further focusing on work in non-human animals, Jan Schnupp and Catherine Carr provide an evolutionary view of how hearing works, and in a perspective piece Karl Kandler and colleagues suggest that contrary to existing opinions, early auditory processing is not 'hard-wired'. Finally, Andrew King and Israel Nelken discuss why research in auditory neuroscience has sometimes lagged behind similar work in comparable fields, and provide suggestions on how to advance progress.

Author contacts

Christine Petit (Institut Pasteur, Paris, France)
E-mail: christine.petit@pasteur.fr
Full text available online.

Stefan Heller (Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA)
E-mail: hellers@stanford.edu
Full text available online.

David R. Moore (MRC Institute of Hearing Research, Nottingham, UK)
E-mail: davem@ihr.mrc.ac.uk
Full text available online.

Josef Rauschecker (Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA)
E-mail: rauschej@georgetown.edu
Full text available online.

Jan Schnupp (University of Oxford, UK)
E-mail: jan@dpag.ox.ac.uk
Full text available online.

Karl Kandler (University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
E-mail: kkarl@pitt.edu
Full text available online.

Andrew King (University of Oxford, UK)
E-mail: andrew.king@dpag.ox.ac.uk
Full text available online.

(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.

Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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