How Your Brain Reacts To Things That Go Bump In The Night

Are you jumpy when you hear a strange sound during the night? Scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory trained mice to associate a specific sound with either a reward or a punishment. Then they used brain imaging technology that allowed them to track neural response to the tonal trigger. They discovered that after hearing the tone corresponding with the punishment a certain neural pattern emerged in the brains of the mice that was similar to the neural pattern triggered by the actual punishment (a puff of air). The same happened in the brains of mice hearing the reward toneРtheir neural response upon hearing the tone was similar to the same neural response they got upon receiving the reward (a sip of water.) Eventually, hearing either tone actualized a responseРfearful mice blinked in anticipation of the air puff, while excited mice licked their lips in anticipation of their water. Researchers think this process is how sounds acquire meaning. (UPI)