Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
How brain balances hearing between the ears

A team from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) sought to understand the biological process behind the 'olivocochlear' hearing control reflex

 

Researchers have answered the long-standing question of how the brain balances hearing between the ears. The balance is essential for localising sound, hearing in noisy conditions and for protection from noise damage.
 
A team from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) sought to understand the biological process behind the 'olivocochlear' hearing control reflex.
 
"The balance of hearing between the ears is dependent upon this neural reflex that links the cochlea of each ear via the brain's auditory control centre," explained senior researcher Gary Housley.
 
Our hearing is so sensitive that we can hear a pin drop and that is because of the "cochlear amplifier" in our inner ear. This stems from outer hair cells in the cochlea which amplify sound vibrations.
 
In animal experiments, the team found that the cochlear's outer hair cells, which amplify sound vibrations, also provide the sensory signal to the brain via a small group of auditory nerve fibres of previously unknown function.
 
In mice lacking the sensory fibre connection to the cochlear outer hair cells, loud sound presented to one ear had no effect on hearing sensitivity in the other ear.
 
In normal mice, this produced an almost instant suppression of hearing. The researchers speculate that some of the hearing loss that humans experience as they age may be related to the gradual breakdown of this sensory fibre connection to the outer hair cells.
 
The ultimate goal is for cochlear implants in both ears to communicate with each other so that the brain can receive the most accurate soundscape possible.
 
"This research will help us move closer to that goal," the authors concluded in the paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Credit card-sized device lets patients analyse blood sample

It is simple to use: you switch it on by pressing a button, then apply your sample to a circle in the bottom right corner and wait for a digital reading to be displayed and even sent to your mobile phone

 

Patients suffering from kidney or heart diseases can avoid visiting hospitals for monitoring their disease status as researchers have now developed a pocket-friendly instrument. The credit card-sized device can analyse blood and saliva samples.
 
It is simple to use: you switch it on by pressing a button, then apply your sample to a circle in the bottom right corner and wait for a digital reading to be displayed and even sent to your mobile phone.
 
"The whole instrument is printed on the card using a screen-printing technique. It could be used to monitor diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease, or to detect cancer," said the researchers.
 
"Until now, we have been used to going to a doctor, who endows us with some wisdom and retains information about us, and then waiting to see, if we get better. Modern sensors and telecommunications are rebalancing this power; in the future, patients could have the information, while physicians provide a service," said Anthony Turner, professor at Linkoping University, Sweden.
 
According to Turner, who has developed the instrument, the new machine could turn a 2,500-year-old paradigm on its head and put the power in the patient's hands.
 
"We are on the cusp of an entirely new era -- not just for bio-sensing, but for measurements in healthcare and diagnostics generally," Turner noted.
 
Bio-sensors can detect and analyze data to give patients information on their heart rate and blood pressure, blood sugar and hormone levels, and even test whether they are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
 
This detection technology is a step forward in personal medicine, giving patients real-time information about how their bodies are functioning and suggesting the most suitable treatments.
 
The printed instruments are the result of a collaboration between Linkoping University and Swedish ICT non-profit Acreo, and the team is now looking for corporate partners to work with to mass-produce them.
 
The findings were presented at Elsevier's fourth international conference on Bio-Sensing Technology in Lisbon, Portugal on Tuesday.

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Cabinet approves stake sale in Indian Oil, NTPC

The proposed sale of 5 percent stake in NTPC is expected to fetch the exchequer around Rs.5,500 crore, while that of 10 percent stake in IOC would bring in nearly Rs.8000 crore

 

The union cabinet on Wednesday approved the sale of a 10 percent stake in Indian Oil Corp and a 5 percent stake in NTPC, a government source said here.
 
The proposed sale of 5 percent stake in NTPC is expected to fetch the exchequer around Rs.5,500 crore, while that of 10 percent stake in IOC would bring in nearly Rs.8000 crore.
 
As per stock exchange data, the government holds 74.96 percent stake in NTPC and 68.57 percent in IOC.
 
It has an ambitious disinvestment target of Rs.41,000 crore through stake sale in public sector units, and another Rs.28,500 crore through strategic stake sale by transfer of management control, during the current fiscal.
 
The IOC stake sale, that was put off last year, was taken up by the government after international crude oil prices began to rise and there was more clarity on subsidy sharing.
 
As on Wednesday, the market capitalisation of NTPC stood at Rs.111,313.77 crore while that of IOC was Rs.79,321.21 crore.

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