News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Meaden & Moore

Wayside Furniture

Hospice of the Western Reserve


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Health and Medicine




Exploradio: Sound and emotion
Researchers at the Northeast Ohio Medical University are unlocking the secrets of our emotional responses to sound
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
We are hard-wired to respond emotionally to the nuances of the human voice. Research shows the amygdala, deep inside the brain, decides which sounds are pleasant or disturbing.
Courtesy of Jeff St.Clair
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

A beautiful piece of music or a baby’s laugh can make us feel good. While scary sounds make us shake in our boots. 

Scientists are discovering how the brain decides whether a sound should bring a smile, or makes your pulse race with fear, and how the brain can tell the difference. 


In this week’s Exploradio, we explore the connections between sound and emotion

Exploradio: Sound and emotion

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (3:59)


(Click image for larger view.)

What is the amygdala?
We are hard-wired to respond emotionally to the sound of the human voice, Sometimes, that means grinning with YouTube’s laughing baby.

Or cringing at the sound of a movie drill sergeant.

Researchers are narrowing in on how the brain decides what makes speech pleasurable, or disturbing. Dr. Jeff Wenstrup heads a team studying sound and emotion at the Northeast Ohio Medical University.  

He says a variety of areas of the brain are affected by this interaction between speech and emotions and in particular a region of the brain called the amygdala, which is a center of emotional expression.

The amygdala, deep inside the brain is part of the limbic system, a set of brain structures that control emotion and memory.

No just for fear 
Wenstrup says the amygdala used to be thought of as mainly channeling fear in the brain. But a more complicated picture is emerging on how the amygdala orchestrates reactions to a variety of sounds.  He says, "They could be angry sounds, they could be pleasant sounds, but the key is that they’re important sounds, and that seems to be one of the jobs of the amygdala, to decide whether a sound is important or not.”

Wenstrup and his team are trying to figure out how the amygdala does this not in humans, but in creatures that live entirely in a world of sound: bats.

Inside the Wenstrup lab, graduate student Marie Gadziola measures the electrical output of amygdala neurons in bats.  She's learning to speak their language.  She says the neurons fire differently for different vocalizations. 

When Wenstrup pokes his head into a soundproof chamber holding a pair of bats fitted with electrodes, the electrodes measure the output of their amygdala neurons.

Gadziola says the neurons of the amygdala are very responsive to social vocalizations that the animals make.  She says, "they respond with these extremely long-lasting discharges of the neurons when the amygdala gets jazzed up and wants to show its response.”

Unlocking the amygdala code 
Wenstrup and his team believe that how long the amygdala neurons are firing helps the brain decide whether a sound is friendly or to be feared.

“The sound may only happen in tens or hundreds of milliseconds but the emotional response lasts much longer than that, so we think this prolonged activity of amygdala neurons is a way for it to orchestrate emotional responses.”

The implication of Wentrup’s research is that, for people with extreme emotional responses to sound, such as soldiers suffering from PTSD from battlefield blasts, the amygdala is too turned on, and, "hyper-responsive to any sound that comes in.”

Wenstrup’s research on bats may lead to an understanding of how people with a range of disorders can be helped.  Problems in the amygdala could affect people with autism, who have trouble interpreting emotion in speech, or people suffering from tinnitus -- a constant ringing in the ears.

Wenstrup says the problem of tinnitus in the military is extremely high.  Currently 1.5 million veterans are being treated for the condition at the cost of more than a billion dollars per year.

This month Jeff Wenstrup received a half million dollar grant from the National Institute on Deafness, part of $2.4 million in funding over the next five years, as he gradually pieces together an understanding of the mechanisms inside our brain linking sound and emotion.

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

Cleveland RTA is moving Public Square bus stops beginning this week
I am very confused. Why are you taking one or more of the park and ride 246 out of service in the morning. I looking over the new schedule I see that there ar...

Canton school board will vote Wednesday on its high school merger
Great to see that THE REPOSITORY is advising a 'no' vote for now! Another point, besides all the Very accurate points already made against this move is the fac...

Some parents opting their students out of Common Core test
I am an 8th grader at a school in Allen County. I have just recently taken the ELA performance based assessment and found it extremely difficult. It asked me a ...

Fallout from the Ohio Supreme Court Munroe Falls ruling
The comment by Nathan Johnson from OEC is confusing. Instead of cities being 'emboldened' to craft zoning laws that were just stricken down by this ruling, comm...

Stopping sediment dumping in Lake Erie
Ah, yes, the Army Coro of Engineers, the geniuses that designed the levee system in New Orleans that has made the flooding worse due to no sediment reaching the...

Ohio charter school critic says reform bills are a good step
The cold truth is that these charter schools are offering services beyond the what the state tests can guage. Parents and students have a choice and they are ch...

State law trumps restrictions on oil and gas drilling in Munroe Falls
Justice O'Neill's quote brings up a point I wish WKSU would address: since, unlike for Federal judges, our judges here in Ohio are elected, and therefore respo...

Ohio Supreme Court invalidates local fracking bans
If Ohio has their way, Fracking Wells will be planted in the courtyard of every town. That is if the State of Ohio can profit by it...for more on how the court ...

Exploradio: The Mayan queen
Very interesting!

Ohio Department of Education recommends cutting back on time spent testing
Less administration more education. Manipulation of this tax payer has caused her to consider relocation and home schooling due to rthe facts of teachers who wa...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University