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Oct. 26, 2021

Episode 86: Nina Kraus

Episode 86: Nina Kraus

Nina Kraus, Ph.D., 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...


Nina Kraus, Ph.D., 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.
Nina’s new book “Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World” is available from Amazon and other resellers. 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.

Check out Brainvolts for articles on how sound shapes our world:
https://brainvolts.northwestern.edu/
Check out Light Me At 5:
https://open.spotify.com/show/1sP1vjrRrMh34Cbq9j9r11?si=98f1f17ac13e4704
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