Aston scientists explore mysteries of hearing

12th August 2003

Aston scientists explore mysteries of hearing

SCIENTISTS from Aston University's Neurosciences Research Institute have received research grants of more than �180,000 to investigate speech and hearing. One strand of the research will help to understand which parts of the brain deal with complex sounds such as speech.

The research projects involve post-doctoral research fellows and will capitalise on Aston's rapidly developing hearing research programme, which has recently been boosted by the arrival of the Paediatric Cochlear Implant Team from Birmingham Children's Hospital. Hearing research at Aston will be further enhanced with the opening of the University's �10 million Academy of Life Sciences, which will feature a soundproofed facility suitable for clinical hearing research when it opens in April 2004.

The Wellcome Trust has provided almost �104,000 to the University over two years. This research will combine Aston's unique MEG (Magnetoencephalography) neuroimaging and psychophysics expertise, to examine how the human auditory system processes sounds ranging in complexity from simple tones to the spoken word.

The Lord Dowding Fund has provided a total of �56,500. This research will examine different pathways in the brain for sound location and interpretation of rapidly changing sounds. This will aid our understanding of why some patients with epilepsy have problems with developing speech and language.

The Birmingham Children's Hospital Research Foundation has provided �27,409. This research will look at speech/language lateralisation, which will be extremely beneficial for patients who face surgery in the temporal lobe of the brain. At the moment, the only way for surgeons to find out which areas of the brain are responsible for vital functions such as speech and hearing is for the patient to have parts of their brain anaesthetized, which may be distressing or difficult to perform, especially for children. MEG technology means that scientists can look at the brain before surgery and localise which areas are responsible for vital functions, so alleviating the need for this procedure.

Aston University is also developing its links with health care professionals across the region, as NHS clinicians are working in partnership with the University on the new undergraduate degree in Audiology, which will take its first intake of students in September.


For further press information please contact Sally Hoban on 0121 204 4549

Notes to editors:

1.Researchers involved are Dr Paul Furlong, Dr Gareth Barnes and Dr Caroline Witton.
2. A separate news release is available with further details about the Aston Academy of Life Sciences

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