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December 19, 2002

Researchers breaking the sound barrier

From: Calgary Sun, Canada - 19 dec 2002

MRIs used to study hearing

A Calgary research team is demolishing sound barriers and researchers worldwide are envious.

"This is world-class research that's being conducted right here in Calgary because of a multidisciplinary team we have right here in our own back yard," said U of C professor Dr. Josef Dort.

"This could've been accomplished in Stanford (University), but it wasn't," said Dort, of breakthroughs recently achieved by a Calgary team striving to understand human hearing.

It was accomplished here, "and they're envious," he said.

Led by Dr. Jos Eggermont, the team was the first to marry Electroencephalography and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to provide the most accurate high-resolution picture of brain activity when exposed to, or in the absence of, sound.

Researchers will be able to indicate exactly how people hear and study the brain activity that accompanies the process, said the doctoral student conducting the hands-on research for the project, Carrie Tobolski.

The feat is technically significant, but is also medically valuable, said Eggermont.

"Now we can find out what happens in the brain when people go deaf," he said.

When hearing loss occurs, "we expect the brain to adapt, we just don't know in what way, yet," said Tobolski.

This research will provide many of those answers she said.

"We'll try to figure out where the changes are, what the changes are and make recommendations," said Eggermont.

Those recommendations will help shape rehabilitation for hearing loss and guide technology in developing hearing aids and other hearing-related devices.

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