A cocktail party in a dish: How neurons filter the chatter

While dining with a friend at a noisy restaurant, you listen attentively to her entertaining account of last night’s date. Despite the cacophony flooding your auditory system, your brain remarkably filters your friend’s voice from the irrelevant conversations at neighboring tables. This “cocktail party effect,” the ability to attend to select input amidst a distracting background, has fascinated researchers since its characterization in the 1950’s. Although psychological and sensory models have offered insight into why human brains are so exquisitely equipped to perform this selective attention, researchers haven’t yet pinned down how neurons process mixed information to respond to the important and suppress the irrelevant. In their new paper published in PLOS Computational Biology, researchers from the University of Tokyo revealed that individual neurons learn to “tune in” to one…


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