Penn Medicine Researchers Discover Hidden Brain Pathways Crucial to Communication

Being able to understand speech is essential to our evolution as humans. Hearing lets us perceive the same word even when spoken at different speeds or pitches, and also gives us extra sensitivity to unexpected sounds. Now, new studies from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania clarify how these two crucial features of audition are managed by the brain.

In the first study, published online in eLife this weekMaria N. Geffen, PhD, an assistant professor in the departments of Neuroscience and Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, and her team, including first co-authors Ryan G. Natan and John J. Briguglio, both doctoral candidates, discovered how different neurons work together in the brain to reduce responses to frequent sounds, and enhance responses to rare sounds.