Their ear structures were not that different from ours.
- Neanderthals are emerging as having been much more advanced than previously suspected.
- Analysis of ear structures indicated by fossilized remains suggests they had everything they needed for understanding the subtleties of speech.
- The study also concludes that Neanderthals could produce the consonants required for a rich spoken language.
Long-standing questions<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcwNzYwNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTI4OTY1NX0.xg5rA6RdbPSDXtDMIqfoEXbhVNfjKcVzpuBJgk1Hazw/img.jpg?width=980" id="501b1" width="1440" height="953" data-rm-shortcode-id="f1839c28760f9b0924bebcbaba8afa1c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Neanderthal reconstruction (right), 2014
Credit: Cesar Manso/Getty Images<p>"For decades, one of the central questions in human evolutionary studies has been whether the human form of communication, spoken language, was also present in any other species of human ancestor, especially the Neanderthals," says co-author <a href="https://carta.anthropogeny.org/users/juan-luis-arsuaga" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Juan Luis Arsuaga</a>.</p><p>The key to answering these questions, say the researchers, has to do first with Neanderthals' physical ability to hear in the frequency ranges typically involved in speech. In addition, while it's known that these ancient people had the physiological capacity for producing vowel sounds, the new research adds consonants to the Neanderthal repertoire, greatly expanding the possibilities for conveying a wide variety of meaning through the production of more types of sounds.</p>
Neanderthal hearing<p>The authors made high-resolution CT scans of fossilized Neanderthal skulls—and skulls from some of their ancestors—found at <a href="https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/989/" target="_blank">UNESCO's archaeological site</a> in northern Spain's Atapuerca Mountains. These scans served as the basis for virtual 3D models of the fossils' ear structures. Similar models of modern human ear structures were also created for comparison purposes.</p><p>Auditory bioengineering software assessed the hearing capabilities of the models. The software is capable of identifying sensitivity to frequencies up to 5 kHz, the midrange and low-midrange frequencies at which <em>homo sapien</em> speech primarily occurs. (We can hear much higher and lower frequencies, but that's where speech lies.) </p><p>Of particular importance is the "occupied bandwidth," the frequency region of greatest sensitivity, and therefore the spectrum most capable of accommodating enough different audio signals to represent a multitude of meanings. The occupied bandwidth is considered a critical requirement for speech since being able to produce and hear many different sounds—and understand their many different meanings—is the cornerstone of efficient communication. </p><p>Compared to their ancestors, the Neanderthal models turned out to have better hearing in the 4-5 kHz range, making their hearing more comparable to our own. In addition, the Neanderthals were found to have a wider occupied bandwidth than their predecessors, again more closely resembling modern humans. </p><p>Lead author of the study Mercedes Conde-Valverde says, "This really is the key. The presence of similar hearing abilities, particularly the bandwidth, demonstrates that the Neanderthals possessed a communication system that was as complex and efficient as modern human speech."</p>
Consonants<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcwNzYxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDkxNzQ1M30.SRvXBjmAt1gq3gu42-NXoR21JdH9l8pkSKXKvZhlEI8/img.jpg?width=980" id="f5501" width="1440" height="796" data-rm-shortcode-id="c4ddda03ad35ff244463d2ef2f0d7227" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: sakura/Adobe Stock/Big Think<p>The study also suggests that Neanderthal vocalization were more advanced than previously thought. Says Quam: "Most previous studies of Neanderthal speech capacities focused on their ability to produce the main vowels in English spoken language."</p><p>However, he says, "One of the other interesting results from the study was the suggestion that Neanderthal speech likely included an increased use of consonants."</p><p>This is important, since "the use of consonants is a way to include more information in the vocal signal and it also separates human speech and language from the communication patterns in nearly all other primates. The fact that our study picked up on this is a really interesting aspect of the research and is a novel suggestion regarding the linguistic capacities in our fossil ancestors."</p>
Bottom line<p>The study concludes that Neanderthals had the physiological hardware to produce a complex range of vocalizations, and the ability to understand them through ear structures not very unlike our own. This fits neatly with other recent insights as to the sophistication of the Neanderthals, a people who now seem to have been developing an expansive set of advanced capabilities simultaneously.</p><p>The authors of the study have been investigating the Neanderthals for almost 20 years, and others have been at it even longer. The work continues, and the study's publication marks a significant milestone in the much longer journey.</p><p>"These results are particularly gratifying," says co-author <a href="http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1835-9199" target="_blank">Ignacio Martinez</a>. "We believe, after more than a century of research into this question, that we have provided a conclusive answer to the question of Neanderthal speech capacities."</p>
A new study looks at why mysterious voices are sometimes taken as spirits and other times as symptoms of mental health issues.
- Both spiritualist mediums and schizophrenics hear voices.
- For the former, this constitutes a gift; for the latter, mental illness.
- A study explores what the two phenomena have in common.
The study<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ5Nzc1OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTU1ODQwOX0.wlQLO9cjh2hFAz9BXwf2DpaqwepAlybru_OH6J4ZwzI/img.jpg?width=2000&coordinates=64%2C74%2C84%2C330&height=1500" id="2659f" width="2000" height="1500" data-rm-shortcode-id="859b9ea95f570450f7acedffc8abc9ac" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Camila Quintero Franco/Unsplash<p>The researchers, led by <a href="https://www.dur.ac.uk/research/directory/staff/?mode=staff&id=15156" target="_blank">Adam Powell</a> of Durham University's Hearing the Voice project and Department of Theology and Religion, conducted online surveys of 65 clairaudient mediums they found through contact with spiritualist communities. The survey also included 143 people from the general population who responded negatively to the question "Have you ever had an experience you would describe as 'clairaudient?'" posed through an online study recruitment tool.</p><p>All participants spoke English and were aged 18-75. Most (84.4 percent) were from the U.K., with the rest mostly from the North Americas, Europe, or Australasia.</p><p>Of the spiritualists surveyed, 79 percent said hearing voices was a normal part of their lives at church and at home, while 44.6 percent said that they heard voices every day. Most respondents reported the voices as being inside their heads, though 31.7 percent said they came from outside their bodies.</p><p>Not surprisingly, more spiritualists reported believing in the paranormal than did the general population participants. They also cared less about what others thought of them.</p><p>Both groups were prone to visual hallucinations as well.</p>
Youth and absorption<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ5Nzc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzE3MTUyNn0.BsqsYO4KFNF9RX9O6TXYE14RysJgiwXua7FegMBf8Ss/img.jpg?width=980" id="5fe11" width="1440" height="1080" data-rm-shortcode-id="b5043b02533749e65eb8befcd05f3062" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Tanner Boriack/Unsplash<p>Spiritualist clairaudients reported their first experiences with other voices early in life. Of these participants, 18 percent said they had heard voices for as long as they remembered. The average age, however, for first hearing voices was 21.7 years. Schizophrenia typically presents when a person is somewhat older than this, in the <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/childhood-schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354483" target="_blank">late 20s</a>.</p><p>Significantly, 71 percent said their experience with voices pre-dated their awareness of spiritualism. Rather than religion prompting the hearing of voices, it seems that it's more the other way around — voices led them to religion.</p><p>Says Powell, "Our findings say a lot about 'learning and yearning.' For our participants, the tenets of spiritualism seem to make sense of both extraordinary childhood experiences as well as the frequent auditory phenomena they experience as practicing mediums."</p><p>Still, the voices came first he says, so "all of those experiences may result more from having certain tendencies or early abilities than from simply believing in the possibility of contacting the dead if one tries hard enough."</p><p>The more likely factor is spiritualist clairaudients' relationship with absorption. Responses to questions based on the 34-point <a href="https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~jfkihlstrom/TAS.htm" target="_blank">Tellegen Absorption Scale</a> revealed that these people tended toward absorptive personality characteristics. These are described by the study's authors as "being readily captured by entrancing stimuli, reporting vivid mental imagery, becoming immersed in one's own thoughts."</p><p>Some, though not all, voice-hearing individuals from the general population were found to exhibit high levels of absorption — those that did were more likely to believe in the paranormal than others.</p>
Implications<p>The study's finding regarding the relative young ages at which spiritualist clairaudients begin hearing voices suggests that these individuals' more welcoming attitude toward the phenomenon may have to do with malleability of youth — a belief in the fantastical is part of being young.</p><p>"Spiritualists tend to report unusual auditory experiences which are positive, start early in life and which they are often then able to control," says co-author <a href="https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/our-staff/m/peter-moseley/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Peter Moseley</a> of Northumbria University. "Understanding how these develop is important because it could help us understand more about distressing or non-controllable experiences of hearing voices too."</p><p>The authors of the study do note, however, that their findings leave two big unanswered questions: Does a tendency toward absorption reveal "a predisposition to having RSEs or a belief in the plausibility of having RSEs?"</p><p>The other obvious big question? It's beyond the scope of this survey, but are those really the voices of the dead?</p>
Research finds that our sense of self can be manipulated by certain smells and sounds.
- Researchers find that there are smells that make us feel thinner and lighter, and other smells that do the opposite.
- The sounds of our footsteps can have a similar effect.
- The researchers suggest that sensory stimuli play a part in our self-image and may be subject to beneficial manipulation.
Lemon, vanilla, and footsteps<p>The research involved two different experiments run consecutively.</p><p>In one, participants were asked to adjust the dimensions of an onscreen 3D avatar so that it best represented themselves as they were exposed to fragrances. A lemon scent caused the subjects to dial in a lighter body weight. A vanilla odor had the opposite effect.</p><p>SCHI lab head <a href="http://www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/328262" target="_blank">Marianna Obrist</a> tells <a href="http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/49415" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Sussex</a>, "Previous research has shown that lemon is associated with thin silhouettes, spiky shapes and high-pitched sounds while vanilla is associated with thick silhouettes, rounded shapes and low-pitched sounds. This could help account for the different body image perceptions when exposed to a range of nasal stimuli."</p><p>Regarding the second experiment, UC3M's <a href="https://uclic.ucl.ac.uk/people/ana-tajadura-jimenez" target="_blank">Ana Tajadura-Jiménez</a> says, "Our previous research has shown how sound can be used to alter body perception. For instance, in a series of studies, we showed how changing the pitch of the footstep sounds people produce when walking can make them feel lighter and happier and also change the way their walk."</p><p>The current study's authors had headphone-wearing participants walk in place on a wooden board as the researchers manipulated the sound of of their footsteps in the headphones, making them higher in pitch or lower. While walking, they were presented with lemon and vanilla scents. The psychological effect of the fragrance became even more pronounced when combined with the sound manipulations.</p><p>"We based our study on the concept of crossmodal correspondences," Brianza tells <a href="https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/sense-of-smell-body-image-study" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Inverse</a>, "which is the spontaneous and unconscious association between different sensory stimulations [like when people see colors when they listen to music]."</p><p>Says Obrist, "One of the interesting findings from the research is that sound appears to have a stronger effect on unconscious behavior whilst scent has a stronger effect on conscious behavior. Further studies need to be carried out in order to better understand the potential around sensory and multisensory stimuli on BIP [body image perception]."</p><span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ab550378bc2922e7514493eb521967f8"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KCno-EtCFOw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
What the heck is going on<p>Brianza says, "Our brain holds several mental models of one's own body appearance which are necessary for successful interactions with the environment." She adds, "These body perceptions are continuously updated in response to sensory inputs received from outside and inside the body."</p><p>Considering that what we know of the world—and to an extent, of ourselves—is based on sensory stimuli, perhaps it should not be completely surprising that we may draw unexpected cues from them.</p><p>In any event, the researchers' findings offer tantalizing early clues that may bear therapeutic fruit when it comes to addressing body issues later on. Will it turn out, for example, that scented garments can help us make kinder, more accurate fitting decisions in olfactorily and sonically optimized dressing rooms?</p><p>Says Brianza, "Being able to positively influence this perception through technology could lead to novel and more effective therapies for people with body perception disorders or the development of interactive clothes and wearable technology that could use scent to enhance people's self-confidence and recalibrate distorted feelings of body weight."</p>
These tiny fish are helping scientists understand how the human brain processes sound.
- Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by changes in a gene that scientists call the "fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1)" gene. People who have FXS or autism often struggle with sensitivity to sound.
- According to the research team, FXS is caused by the disruption of a gene. By disrupting that same gene in zebrafish larvae, they can examine the effects and begin to understand more about this disrupted gene in the human brain.
- Using the zebrafish, Dr. Constantin and the team were able to gather insights into which parts of the brain are used to process sensory information.
By disrupting a specific gene in Zebrafish, we're able to better understand the same disruption of that gene in humans with FXS or autism.
Credit: slowmotiongli on Adobe Stock<p>"Loud noises often cause sensory overload and anxiety in people with autism and Fragile X syndrome -- sensitivity to sound is common to both conditions," <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201110102527.htm" target="_blank">Dr. Constantin explained to Science Daily</a>.</p><p><strong>How do zebrafish relate to humans with autism? </strong></p><p>According to the research team, FXS is caused by the disruption of a gene. By disrupting that same gene in zebrafish larvae, they can examine the effects and begin to understand more about this disrupted gene in the human brain. </p><p>The thalamus, according to Dr. Constantin, works as a control center, relaying sensory information from around the body to different parts of the brain. The hindbrain then coordinates different behavioral responses. Using the different sound tests, the team was able to study the whole brain of the zebrafish larvae under microscopes and see the activity of each brain cell individually. </p><p>According to Dr. Constantin, the research team recorded the brain activity of zebrafish larvae while showing them movies or exposing them to bursts of sound. The movies stimulated movement, a reaction to the visual stimuli that was the same for fish with the Fragile X mutation and those without. However, when the fish were given a burst of white noise, there was a dramatic difference in the brain activity of the fish with the Fragile X mutation.<br></p><p>After seeing how the noise radically affected the fish brain, the team designed a range of 12 different volumes of sound and found the Fragile X model fish could hear much quieter volumes than the control fish. </p><p>"The fish with Fragile X mutations had more connections between different regions of their brain and their responses to the sounds were more plentiful in the hindbrain and thalamus," <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201110102527.htm" target="_blank">said Dr. Constantin</a>.</p><p>Essentially, the fish with Fragile X mutation had more connections between the regions of their brain and so their responses to the sounds were more notable. </p><p><strong>Understanding how this gene disruption works in zebrafish will give us a better understanding of sound hypersensitivity in humans with FXS or autism.</strong> </p><p>"How our neural pathways develop and respond to the stimulation of our senses gives us insights into which parts of the brain are used and how sensory information is processed," Dr. Constantin said.</p><p>Using the zebrafish, Dr. Constantin and the team were able to gather insights into which parts of the brain are used to process sensory information. </p><p>"We hope that by discovering fundamental information about how the brain processes sound, we will gain further insights into the sensory challenges faced by people with Fragile X syndrome and autism."</p>
A study from McGill University reveals the secret of musicians who have excellent time.
- When a person locks onto a beat, it's because their brain rhythms have become aligned with it.
- Listening and physically performing are brain functions not directly related to rhythm synchronization.
- The study tracked EEG brain activity during listening, playing along, and recreating rhythms.
Listening and tapping<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzYyNDIzNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzU4NjIzOH0.vK-N6A-goMccmBsL5xOyrzmWoxsiOHDKV-J9YPfHj7Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="48cf6" width="1440" height="1080" data-rm-shortcode-id="28f5f38709986f5cde943ed121e16607" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="TR-808 rhythm composer" />
A beat machine that produces notes similar to those used by the researchers
Credit: Steve Harvey/Unsplash<p>Palmer and her colleagues worked with 29 adult musicians — 21 female and 6 males, aged 18 to 30 years old — each of whom was proficient with an instrument, having studied for a minimum of six years. With electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes affixed to their scalps, the participants listened to and tapped along with different versions of three basic rhythms as the scientists captured their brain activity.</p><p>Each rhythm was preceded by a four-beat count off. </p><ul><li><a href="https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/files/newsroom/simple1-1.mp3" target="_blank">Rhythm 1:1</a> — repeatedly played a simple series of evenly spaced clicks.</li><li><a href="https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/files/newsroom/moderate1-2.mp3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Rhythm 1:2</a> — repeatedly played a two-beat phrase with a higher-pitched sound for the first beat of each phrase and a lower-pitched sound for the second.</li><li><a href="https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/files/newsroom/complex3-2.mp3" target="_blank">Rhythm 3:2</a> — repeatedly played the most complex rhythm of the three, a series of triplets. In this case, the lower-pitched sound played the quarter notes while a higher-pitched sound played the triplet notes.</li></ul><p>(Tap or click each rhythm's name above to listen to its complete version with no beats or sounds omitted.)</p><p>The participants were assigned Listen, Synchronize, and Motor tasks. In the:</p><ul><li>Listen task — participants were played a dozen modified versions of the rhythms and asked to report any missing beats they noticed.</li><li>Synchronize task — individuals played along with a dozen versions of the rhythms, in some cases supplying sounds researchers had removed from the patterns.</li><li>Motor task — participants were asked to reproduce a dozen rhythm variations after hearing each one.</li></ul>
Beat markers<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzYyNDQyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDA5NDU4OX0.GKl27Ed_kuwLg0r_eh_s6yUoes8RN_QS2fMHLBx0vBI/img.jpg?width=980" id="b927a" width="1440" height="810" data-rm-shortcode-id="8148960204379424f185bd420f59ec13" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="chart with wave lines" />
Credit: Chaikom/Shutterstock<p>The scientists were able to identify neural markers representing each musician's beat perception, revealing the degree of synchronicity between the researchers' rhythms and the brain's own rhythms. Surprisingly, this synchronicity turned out to be unrelated to brain activity associated with either listening or playing.</p><p>Said the study's first authors, PhD students Brian Mathias and Anna Zamm, "We were surprised that even highly trained musicians sometimes showed reduced ability to synchronize with complex rhythms, and that this was reflected in their EEGs."</p><p>While the musician participants were all reasonably competent at tapping along to the rhythms, the degree to which the markers aligned to the beats was what separated the good players from the best. "Most musicians are good synchronizers," say Mathias and Zamm. "Nonetheless, this signal was sensitive enough to distinguish the 'good' from the 'better' or 'super-synchronizers,' as we sometimes call them."</p><p>When Palmer is asked whether a person can develop the ability to become a super-synchronizer, she answers: "The range of musicians we sampled suggests that the answer would be 'yes.' And the fact that only 2-3% of the population are 'beat deaf' is also encouraging. Practice definitely improves your ability and improves the alignment of the brain rhythms with the musical rhythms. But whether everyone is going to be as good as a drummer is not clear."</p>