Professor David McAlpine, Professor of Hearing, Language and the Brain & Director of Hearing Research, Macquarie University, NSW
Most sounds have an ‘out-thereness’ - they appear to originate from somewhere, and are usually attributed to the specific source, or sources, from which they originate. Nevertheless, unlike vision or touch, for example, the sensory end organs in the sense of hearing – the cochlea in the inner ear - contain no specialized receptors for determining the location of sound sources. To this end, cues to the location of a source must be computed from information that, of itself, is not spatial. This seminar will demonstrate how a sense of space emerges in the auditory brain—from the biophysical processes necessary to extract spatial information with precision of a few tens of microseconds, to our ability (or not) to perform ‘cocktail party listening’. It will also discuss how cochlear implants—devices that replace the function of the inner ear entirely—can be used to create a sense of space in individuals who have lost, or never experienced, the sense of auditory space.