This year will bring a host of new gatherings with friends and family. If you have trouble following along with conversations during these types of get-togethers, it may be the case that your brain is overwhelmed by all the sounds. A recent study published the end of last year found that the presence of background noise can cause too many brain cells to fire in older mice, and they believe these findings could be translated to humans. We review more about this study below.
About the Study
The study is entitled “Decreased Modulation of Population Correlations in Auditory Cortex Is Associated with Decreased Auditory Detection Performance in Old Mice.” It was published in the Journal of Neuroscience in December 2022. The contributing researchers are from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.
For the study, the researchers recorded the activity of 8,078 neurons (brain cells) in the brain’s auditory cortex region among 12 older mice (ages 16 to 24 months) and 10 younger mice (ages two to six months).
They conditioned the mice to lick a water spout each time a tone was played, then they performed the same exercise while white noise played in the background.
In the absence of the white noise, the old mice and young mice licked the water spout consistently each time the tone was played. However, once the white noise was introduced, the old mice had a harder time detecting the tone, and even licked the water spout before the tone was played in many instances.
Because the researchers were monitoring the neural activity in the mice, they saw that there was twice as much activity in the old mice compared to the young mice when white noise was present. In the young mice, some neuron activity increased while others decreased.
This shows that the young mice could suppress the effects of the white noise on their neural activity, while the old mice could not.
There is good news! The researchers believe that because mammals’ brains have flexible learning potential, the brain can be taught to focus on individual sounds amid white noise or background nose. For example, one could learn to focus on their conversation partner’s voice at Cox Cafe in the Smokey Glover Dr neighborhood while suppressing other conversations and dishes clanking. However, the researchers note that more research is needed on this topic.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call The ENT Center of Central Georgia today.