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Advances in Health and Medicine

Understanding Hearing and Language


By examining how the brain processes auditory stimulation—and thus how hearing works—Pitt neuroscientists are gaining insight into the underlying precepts of communication, speech, and language.

Pitt’s Auditory Research Group investigates how the auditory system changes during development, memory formation and learning, and following hearing loss or tinnitus.

The research could have implications in dyslexia and learning disorders, as it considers the brain’s ability to assemble and interpret. Professor Thanos Tzounopoulus studies cellular mechanisms for learning and memory and their role in auditory processing.

Professor Karl Kandler and his colleagues found the brain’s “brakes”; They identified the lateral superior olive, a neural structure that localizes sound by inhibiting auditory neurons.

They also discovered that inhibitory neurons, when not used, either disappear or even become excitatory, which may explain why children are more prone to epilepsy as newborns, before neural inhibition has fully developed.