NeuroSPECT technique: Experts show that each one of us "hears differently"

Doctor Goycoolea also summarises the second article, which won an award from the prestigious Scandinavian journal Acta Oto-Laryngologica. "This is very common: when patients lose their hearing in both ears in an abrupt fashion, shortly afterwards they hear music but don't dare to say so for fear of being called crazy. But a doctor discovers through to talking to such patients that this is a very common syndrome. We then ask ourselves where this music comes from. There are areas of auditory memory where this music is accumulated, and what the patient is hearing are old melodies. This is not psychotic, but totally functional, distinct from psychotic. So, we made cerebral maps of these people while they listened to music, and in all cases the brain area of auditory memory was activated. Later, we played music to them and the same area was activated. These areas were active in "freeing" music from the memory. What we proved, among other things, is that the brains of these people act in a different way to those of psychiatric patients. What we ultimately proved is that, on using auditory memory, very different zones are switched on to those used by patients who, for example, suffer from psychosis. The auditory areas and those of association are switched on."

Both studies revealed that the most stimulated brain area was that known as Brodmann area 39, which is located in the cerebral cortex in the posterior half of the brain and which belongs to the associative cortex. It is specifically auditory but is also related to the sensory memory, language comprehension, and grammar development.

The future

Meanwhile, these doctors will continue in their efforts to discover how the brain functions in response to sound stimulation. "We are now observing cochlear implants, evaluating them over time, and this has not been published. We are interested in finding out what brain areas are stimulated over time for patients with implants, how neuronal circuits are created, and how the brain changes from the visual to the auditory. This can be measured at brain function level. It is neither easy nor cheap, but it can be done."

Doctor Marcos Goycoolea is also interested in applying the same kind of imaging studies to subjects submitted to very specific sound stimuli such as mantras, since this team of experts is interested in exploring within the brain so that this knowledge can eventually lead to new treatments and ways of tackling different audiological problems. They are looking and working towards the future of medicine.

* GOYCOOLEA, M., MENA I., BERGER C.G. “Musical brains: a study of spontaneous and evoked musical sensations without external auditory stimuli.” Acta Oto-Laryngologica, 2007, 127: 711 - 721.

** GOYCOOLEA, M., MENA I., NEUBAUER S. “Spontaneous musical auditory perceptions in patients who develop abrupt bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. An uninhibition syndrome?” Acta Oto-Laryngologica, 2006,126: 368 - 374.

Gonzalo López Pardo

Translation: P.W., Photos: G.L.P.