Sounds sculpt the brain — well into adolescence
In the research group of Prof. Rinaldi, it could recently be demonstrated, that exposure to frequency sweeps can sculpt the brain for people up to 16 years of age. Previously it was shown that simple sounds can shape the brain and neuronal circuits in early childhood during the so called “critical periods for plasticity”. However, it has never been shown, whether this is also the case for complex sounds with frequency sweeps and up to which development stages. The results of Prof. Rinaldi show that there is not only one critical period for shaping the brain, but indeed there several of these periods, which are controlled by different mechanisms.
Identifying these mechanism may allow reinstating this plasticity in the adult brain and could help adults suffering from hearing abnormalities and the associated consequences. Moreover, understanding that our auditory environment continuously modifies brain function well into adolescence may lead to the question whether the very noisy auditory environments of school classrooms are appropriate for proper brain development in children? These kinds of concerns could have an impact on educational policies and potentially even influence infrastructural developments.