We all face aging as a part of being human. This can be a fullfilling experience. However, aging is accompanied with decline in bodily functions and sensory capabilites, as well as with changes in the brain. These effects of aging can be slow and minimal, but also can be devastating, such as dementia or alzheimers.
One impairment most people will experience during aging - either themselves or observe in their close friends or family members - is a decline in hearing ability. Hearing loss in aging is to the most part caused by sensorineural impairment, that is a degeneration of the cochlear structures, specifically the hair cells.
However, there is an open question whether also aging of the auditory brain, and the auditory pathway contribute to problems in hearing in old age. Specifcally, it is not clear whether for example auditory processing 'slows down' in the central parts of the auditory system while we grow older, which then can lead to problems in speech understanding.
We study the question wheter there can be deficits in auditory processing, such as 'slowing down', allthough the peripheral sensory input is perfectly fine. Thus, is there a neural correlate of aging or other central hearing disorder that can affect auditory perception allthough the peripheral input is not impaired.
To test central aging effects in the auditory system we measure temporal processing in the auditory system, specifically the inferior colliculus, which is a central hub of all auditory information to the auditory cortex. We use aging mice of different strains, and transgenic models, to study temporal processing in the IC with a gap detection paradigm.
Generally there is usually a combination of sensorineural hearing loss with potential central effects, which constitutes confounding influences, which makes the study challenging. Especially as peripheral effects can also influence the temporal proccessing in later levels of the auditory pathway.