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Brain is strobing, not constant, neuroscience research shows: First sight, now sound: New discoveries show perception is cyclical -- ScienceDaily

The key findings are: 1. auditory perception oscillates over time and peak perception alternates between the ears -- which is important for locating events in the environment; 2. auditory decision-making also oscillates; and 3. oscillations are a general feature of perception, not specific to vision. The work is the result of an Italian-Australian collaboration, involving Professor David Alais, Johahn Leung and Tam Ho of the schools of Psychology and Medical Science, University of Sydney; Professor David Burr from the Department of Neuroscience, University of Florence; and Professor Maria Concetta Morrone of the Department of Translational Medicine, University of Pisa. With a simple experiment, they showed that sensitivity for detecting weak sounds is not constant, but fluctuates rhythmically over time. It has been known for some years that our sight perception is cyclical but this is the first time it has been demonstrated that hearing is as well. "These findings that auditory perception also goes through peaks and troughs supports the theory that perception is not passive but in fact our understanding of the world goes through cycles," said Professor Alais from the University of Sydney. "We have suspected for some time that the senses are not constant but are processed via cyclical, or rhythmic functions; these findings lend new weight to that theory." These auditory cycles happen at the rate of about six per second. This may seem fast, but not in neuroscience, given that brain oscillations can occur at up to 100 times per second.

Neurofeedback shows promise in treating tinnitus -- ScienceDaily

The participants then participated in the fMRI-neurofeedback training phase while inside the MRI scanner. They received white noise through their earplugs and were able to view the activity in their primary auditory cortex as a bar on a screen. Each fMRI-neurofeedback training run contained eight blocks separated into a 30-second "relax" period followed by a 30-second "lower" period. Participants were instructed to watch the bar during the relax period and actively attempt to lower it by decreasing primary auditory cortex activity during the lower phase. The researchers gave the participants techniques to help them do this, such as trying to divert attention from sound to other sensations like touch and sight. "Many focused on breathing because it gave them a feeling of control," Dr. Sherwood said. "By diverting their attention away from sound, the participants' auditory cortex activity went down, and the signal we were measuring also went down." A control group of nine individuals were provided sham neurofeedback -- they performed the same tasks as the other group, but the feedback came not from them but from a random participant. By performing the exact same procedures with both groups using either real or sham neurofeedback, the researchers were able to distinguish the effect of real neurofeedback on control of the primary auditory cortex. The study represents the first time fMRI-neurofeedback training has been applied to demonstrate that there is a significant relationship between control of the primary auditory cortex and attentional processes. This is important to therapeutic development, Sherwood said, as the neural mechanisms of tinnitus are unknown but likely related to attention.