Learning & Plasticity

In order to make sense of sound, our auditory system needs to be able to learn from experience, and to adapt to changing environments and circumstances. These adaptive processes in the auditory system occur over different time scales, some taking a few seconds, others lasting a lifetime. Chapter 7 of "Auditory Neuroscience" charts the development of our auditory perceptual abilities and places this in the context of the maturation of the ear and the central auditory pathways. We consider the role of sensory experience in shaping the developing auditory pathway and its impact on the emergence of auditory functions ranging from sound localization to speech perception. We also look at the neural mechanisms that allow the auditory system to remain "plastic" in later life, and therefore able to learn and adapt to changing inputs. The following web pages provide further information on this subject.