Check Out the Big Brain on Brett: Here’s How Sounds Evolved It (Audio)

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Earlier today, NPR aired a segment on its Health program “Shots” during today’s “Morning Edition” that explored the role of auditory experiences on the development and evolution of the animal brain. In fact, there is an entire school of scientists devoted to the field, and they are called “acoustic biologists.” Nearly every animal species, including human, uses sound to communicate and acoustic biologists aim to study not only the sounds easily heard, but also those yet to be discovered. Their field of study, bioacoustics, has even expanded to incorporate data from the environments that house animal species, integrating the sounds of things like rain and wind to decipher how and why communication is affected by noise.

According to neuroscientist Seth Horowitz, author of the book The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind, humans “hear anywhere from 20 to 100 times faster than you see, so that everything that you perceive with your ears is coloring every other perception you have, and every conscious thought you have.” Essentially, that means that our hearing affects the ways in which our brains process information, reactions, instinctual behaviors, and subconscious processes. Horowitz opts for a musical metaphor to explain how exactly the brain and sound interact with one another. “The brain is really a wet, sloppy drum machine. It’s desperately seeking rhythms.”

In today’s conversation, the auditory behaviors of other animals are also examined, and the result is a riveting discussion about a sense that allows us not only to participate in the biological experience of being human, but also our favorite tunes. Check it out here.

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