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Feel Better, Hear Better?

Christine Portfors, an associate professor in the school of Biological Sciences and head of the hearing and communication lab at Washington State University Vancouver, recently received a $1.6 million grant to study how the brain chemical dopamine influences hearing.

The study, also supported by the National Institutes of Health, will integrate multiple techniques to learn how dopamine affects the brain’s ability to process sounds. Dopamine is a “feel-good” chemical that is released in the brain when we experience something we enjoy, be it a favorite song, food, or smell.

Previous research has discovered a link between loss of dopamine and increased difficulty producing and understanding speech, particularly in those who have Parkinson’s disease. This new study, which will use mice, is the first of its kind to assess the process by which hearing a sound relates to the releasing of dopamine.

The findings of this study may have an influence on related research that has found a strong association between untreated hearing loss and depression.

To learn more about the study, click here.

Last updated: April 15, 2014

 

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