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June 2, 1989

Information Accumulating on How Brain 'Hears'

JAMA. 1989;261(21):3077. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420210021010

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NEW INFORMATION about the way the brain "hears," that is, how it processes the signals it receives from the inner ear, is accumulating from research at the Center for Hearing Sciences. Learning how the auditory nerves process the information they receive from the external auditory system has important implications for understanding brain function as well as hearing.

"When you talk about hearing, you're really talking about the brain, and expanding our knowledge of this process has broad implications for treating sensory disorders," says Murray B. Sachs, PhD, the center's director.

Humans' ability to hear allows them to detect the slightest sound in a hushed forest yet also to converse in a noisy subway. "We can process sounds over a range of intensities of about 100 million million (trillion) to 1, yet virtually over this entire range, speech is perfectly intelligible. We can detect frequency changes as small as 0.01%. Indeed,