Northwestern Events Calendar

Jan
14
2022

GLOBAL LUNCHBOX | How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World — A Conversation with Neuroscientist Nina Kraus

When: Friday, January 14, 2022
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Cindy Pingry  

Group: WCCIAS

Category: Global & Civic Engagement, Academic, Lectures & Meetings

Description:

Register for the Zoom link:

https://bit.ly/nina-kraus

Join us for the Global Lunchbox, a weekly conversation convened by the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern University featuring conversations with scholars about their current research on a range of critical global issues.

Our guest this week will be Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist who has done pathbreaking research on sound and hearing for more than 30 years. She is Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Communication Sciences, and Otolaryngology and Director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern. We'll discuss her recent book Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World (2021).

About the book

Making sense of sound is one of the hardest jobs we ask our brains to do. In Of Sound Mind, Nina Kraus examines the partnership of sound and brain, showing for the first time that the processing of sound drives many of the brain's core functions. Our hearing is always on—we can't close our ears the way we close our eyes—and yet we can ignore sounds that are unimportant. We don't just hear; we engage with sounds. Kraus explores what goes on in our brains when we hear a word—or a chord, or a meow, or a screech.

Our hearing brain, Kraus tells us, is vast. It interacts with what we know, with our emotions, with how we think, with our movements, and with our other senses. Auditory neurons make calculations at one-thousandth of a second; hearing is the speediest of our senses. Sound plays an unrecognized role in both healthy and hurting brains. Kraus explores the power of music for healing as well as the destructive power of noise on the nervous system. She traces what happens in the brain when we speak another language, have a language disorder, experience rhythm, listen to birdsong, or suffer a concussion. Kraus shows how our engagement with sound leaves a fundamental imprint on who we are. The sounds of our lives shape our brains, for better and for worse, and help us build the sonic world we live in.

Praise for the book

Drawing on hard science and exuberant appreciation, “Of Sound Mind” examines why we love music, how we make words, and what we mean when we say, “It’s good to hear your voice.” It also, significantly, advocates for creating our own healthy sonic environments, to “allow sound to change us for the better.” —Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

About the author

Nina Kraus is a scientist, inventor, and amateur musician who studies the biology of auditory learning. She began her career measuring responses from single auditory neurons and was one of the first to show that the adult nervous system has the potential for reorganization following learning; these insights in basic biology galvanized her to investigate auditory learning in humans.

Through a series of innovative studies involving thousands of research participants from birth to age 90, her research has found that our lives in sound, for better (musicians, bilinguals) or worse (language disorders, concussion, aging, hearing loss), shape auditory processing. She continues to conduct parallel experiments in animal models to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these phenomena.

Never having accepted a lack of technology as a roadblock to scientific discovery, Kraus has invented new ways to measure the biology of sound processing in humans that provide unprecedented precision and granularity in indexing brain function. With her technological innovations she is now pushing science beyond the traditional laboratory by conducting studies in schools, community centers, and clinics.

Using the principles of neuroscience to improve human communication, she advocates for best practices in education, health, and social policy.

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