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Experience-related changes in the adult auditory system

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Changes in the sensory environment, as a result of deprivation or stimulation, modify our sensory experience and may result in experience-related or learning-induced reorganisation within the central nervous system. Recently, advanced electrophysiological and imaging techniques have revealed reorganisation of the adult human auditory map, for example, after sudden unilateral hearing loss. In parallel to these studies, there is behavioural evidence that auditory function can be modified by changing the acoustic environment; for example, experience with amplification has consequences for long-term performance, as shown by evidence from studies of late-onset auditory deprivation and auditory acclimatisation. Future studies could usefully unite these behavioural and advanced objective techniques. Such studies could provide a direct link between changes in perception and reorganisation of the auditory system. This presentation will summarise our work investigating changes in perceptual and physiological measures, in adult humans, after the sensory environment has been modified by: i) unilateral amplification, ii) use of a unilateral earplug, and iii) sudden and severe unilateral deafness following surgery for removal of an acoustic neuroma. The findings are consistent with the growing body of literature that shows that the mature central auditory system is malleable and is modified by experience.


Kevin Munro is Professor of Audiology and Consultant Clinical Scientist at the University of Manchester. He is also Director of Graduate Matters in the School of Psychological Sciences. His publications and presentations are on the topics of auditory plasticity, hearing aid selection, cochlear processing, and paediatric assessment and habilitation. He has been honoured for his work with several awards from the British Society of Audiology of which he is currently Chairman.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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