Hearing in Another Sense: How Interconnected Body Systems Can Aid In The Process Of Hearing

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While we continue to evolve technologically, intense work is still being done to answer many questions about our own human bodies and all of its processes. As all of our bodily senses are so complex and interrelated, the need for continued research into potential technological advancements in the healthcare sector to address complicated medical questions continues.

The neurological system is one of the body systems receiving an immense amount of attention. Long-term research that attempts to understand exactly how the brain controls the rest of the body, how sensory information is ingested and integrated, and exactly how the outside environment is perceived is being conducted all over the world.

Hearing is just one of the many interconnected senses our body is constantly integrating into the overall perception of the world around us. Two senses that are intimately interconnected when processing the world is site and sound.

So strong the connection is between sight and sound, that our perception of an event may differ from the actual event in an effort to make sure what we’re seeing and hearing are aligned. When an object is viewed and heard at the same time, the mind connects those two senses as originating at the same spot.

Even when the actual sound shifts to another location, the mind, which has already associated that sound to a previous location, will continue to assign it to that location if the visual stimulus is still there. This is called the ventriloquist effect, according to a study conducted by the California Institute of Technology, which was published in the Psychological Science journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

According to this study, the ventriloquist effect can be felt for imaginary objects as well. Simply imagining an object in a certain location while hearing it may lead the mind to assign the source of the sound in a certain location even though the source sound may shift in the future.

In this particular California Institute of Technology study, researchers had participants visualize a circle in a precise location on a screen while listening to white noise come from one of three spots behind the screen. Participants were asked when hearing quick emissions of sound to identify the location of the sound on the screen. Results indicated they were biased toward the location of the imagined circle.

This study showed that the ventriloquist illusion can be perceived just as strongly for imagined objects as actual objects, indicating a real overlap between the imagery of the mind’s eye and actual visual perception.

Future Implications

Neurological recovery and rehabilitation rely heavily on brain plasticity. This study shows the power of brain plasticity by its ability to reassign the localization of sounds merely based on an imagined representation of the source of the sound. Results of the study demonstrate that “mental imagery can recalibrate the senses and induce the same cross-modal sensory plasticity as real sensory stimuli.”

The result of this study has real implications for the future of research in other domains such as recovery from accidents or injury and neurological incidents like stroke, and the development of brain-computer interfaces and neural prostheses”



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