The new year will bring a lot of gatherings, and if you have trouble hearing during these events, it could mean your brain is overwhelmed with sounds. A very recent study, published in December 2022, uncovered this link among mice, and the findings could be translated to humans.
About the Study
The study, entitled “Decreased Modulation of Population Correlations in Auditory Cortex Is Associated with Decreased Auditory Detection Performance in Old Mice,” was published in the Journal of Neuroscience at the end of last year. The contributing researchers are from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.
During the study, the research team recorded the activity of over 8,000 brain cells (neurons) in the brain’s auditory cortex region among 12 old mice (16-24 months) and 10 young mice (2-6 months).
The researchers first conditioned the mice to lick a water spout whenever a tone was played. Then, the researchers performed the same exercise while white noise played in the background.
Without the white noise, the old mice licked the water spout just as well as the young mice each time the tone was played. However, when the white noise was introduced, the old mice had difficulty detecting the tone. In some cases, they licked the spout before a tone had even played, which indicates they thought it was present when it wasn’t.
The researchers hypothesize that this is because there was twice as much neuron activity in the old mice compared to the young mice when white noise was present. For the young mice, only some neuron activity increased and others become repressed.
Therefore, the young mice could suppress the effects of ambient noise on their neural activity, while the old mice could not.
Fortunately, the study authors believe that thanks to the mammalian brain’s flexible learning potential, the brain can be taught to focus on individual sounds amid background noise like at St. Peters Rec-Plex during the Winter Festival on Ice. However, more research is needed on this topic.
For more information or to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, call Midwest ENT Centre today.