Plasticity in the auditory pathway

Dexter R.F. Irvine

in The Oxford Handbook of Auditory Science: The Auditory Brain

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199233281
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Plasticity in the auditory pathway

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Psychology



Evidence from human and animal studies reveals that the adult auditory system exhibits a remarkable degree of plasticity. Such plasticity is demonstrated using a wide range of experimental paradigms in which auditory input or the behavioural significance of particular inputs is manipulated. Changes over the same time period in the way in which the receptive fields (RFs) of sensory neurons are conceptualized, and well-established mechanisms for use-related changes in synaptic function, provide a framework for understanding the mechanisms of auditory system plasticity. The evidence for plasticity in auditory cortex and, to a lesser extent, auditory subcortical structures, indicates that central auditory processing mechanisms are dynamic and are constantly modified to optimize processing of salient events in the organism's acoustic environment. The implications of this plasticity for the development of remedial procedures, not only for the hearing impaired but also for those with other disabilities that might reflect auditory processing disorders, are only beginning to be explored.

Keywords: adult auditory system; plasticity; behavioural significance; sensory neurons; receptive fields

Article.  15264 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Cognitive Psychology

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