The Feeling Of Sound
Reported November 2011
NEW YORK (Ivanhoe Newswire) --We hear and touch, and always thought they were separate and distinct senses. But now there’s proof you may be able to hear with something other than your ears. Listen to this unique experiment that shows just how much we still don’t know about the human brain.
It looks like the work of a mad scientist. First a cap is fitted on her head. Next, what looks like torture. A syringe is pushing gel through the holes where probes will be inserted to measure brain activity. All this, so City College neuroscientist and psychologist Tony Ro can prove his theory.
“What we’re hoping to find and measure is how sound actually enhances the way people feel information on their skin,” Dr. Tony Ro, a professor at City College in New York City told Ivanhoe.
In a sound proof room graduate students set up. This student will hear sounds (tones actually) while also getting faint touches to her skin. She clicks when she feels something.
“What’s being shown is on the monitor is the electrical activity of the subject’s brain,” Dr. Ro explained.
Professor Ro monitors from an adjacent room.
“In many experiments we’ve been finding that brain areas that are involved with processing how we hear and how we feel are very heavily interconnected,” Dr. Ro said.
Take a mosquito buzzing around your ear for an example. Just hearing the sound heightens your sense of touch as you anticipate the bug landing on your skin. Because of the way that our brains are cross wired, the loss of one sense like hearing may be compensated with another.
“We may be able to vibrate their skin in replacement of sound,” Dr. Ro explained.
Ro is working with a patient left disabled by a stroke. She lost the ability to feel on one side of her body. Yet a new ability was awakened.
“It seems as though the hearing portions of her brain started to take over the region of her brain that was normally feeling information,” Dr. Ro concluded.
Exploring sound and touch on the journey to understanding the human brain.
Dr. Ro says tens of millions of people suffer from one form of sensory loss or another. But if we can replace hearing loss with touch information, we can use skin vibrations to convey information that is normally provided by hearing.
Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:
Tony Ro, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Program in Cognitive Neuroscience
The City College and Graduate Center
The City University of New York
Department of Psychology
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