Hearing sounds that are socially meaningful to someone, can change their ear and train it to better detect those sounds, according to researchers at Georgia State University.
The findings, which are published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, came from studying green treefrogs that communicate with two vocal calls. Frogs that heard calls similar to those they would encounter in normal social breeding in the wild had a more active hearing response, compared to frogs that heard random ones with no social meaning.
“The ear is modifiable,” said Walter Wilczynski, a professor in the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State. “It’s plastic. It can change by getting better or worse at picking up signals, depending on particular types of experiences, such as listening to social signals. If frogs have a lot of experience hearing their vocal signals, the ones that are behaviorally meaningful to them, their ear changes to help them better cope with processing those signals.”
Researchers say the findings could impact the importance of social interaction and the impact it has on basic sensory functions, especially in elderly people in nursing homes.
“(A lack of social structure is a) “huge risk factor for every neurological and psychiatric disease we know about,” Wilczynski said.
Read more at EurekAlert.com