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The Brain and Sensory Plasticity: Language Acquisition and Hearing

The Brain and Sensory Plasticity: Language Acquisition and Hearing

RATING: (2 of 5 ears)
EDITORS: Charles I. Berlin, PhD and Theodore G. Weyand, PhD
PUBLISHER: Thomson Delmar Learning
ISBN: 1-4018-3947-9
COST: US$77.95 (hardcover)

REVIEWER: Ben Sierra, Colonel, USAF, BSC, Director, Audiology and Speech Pathology, USAF Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas

SYNOPSIS: The Brain and Sensory Plasticity is the eighth book in the Kresge-Mirmelstein Award cycle supported by Delmar Learning. The late Rona Mirmelstein, a Kresge Research Laboratory benefactor, and Dr. Charles Berlin conceived the Mirmelstein Award series. Each year the Kresge Research Laboratory recognizes a peer-selected scientist who made powerful contributions to hearing science. At the awarding of the prize, talks are presented, crafted around the topic of the prizewinner. Each talk becomes a chapter, which are then compiled into a book. The book was edited by Charles Berlin and Theodore Weyand and celebrates the contributions of Masakazu Konishi, the leading figure in the field of neurothology since the 1960s. The book takes the reader through seven chapters ranging from laboratory research to clinical practice applications, including an excellent chapter by Linda Hood, Ph.D. and Charles Berlin, Ph.D. on the role of auditory physiologic measures. An accompanying CD-ROM provides additional information supporting Chapters 5, 6, and 7.

REVIEW: Chapter 1 by Masakazu Konishi, Ph.D. describes auditory processing using an ascending hierarchy—from the ear to the highest center where relevant stimuli are represented. The chapter describes the work as if it proceeds from lower to higher centers using the barn owl's auditory system for a comparative analysis.

Chapter 2 by Dr. Sussman delves into the challenges of neuroscience in providing an understanding on how the brain accomplishes language. It illustrates how the link between language and neuroethology can be established. The focus of the chapter is on the specific puzzle in speech production and perception known as the "noninvariance" problem. After describing the problem and a possible phonetic based solution, the author attempts to link how human phonetic data on stop consonants parallels data on how the barn owl's auditory system resolves input signal ambiguity during sound localization.

Chapter 3 by Carmen Canavier, Ph.D., investigates auditory information transmission by action potentials or spikes and how the precise ordering of the interspike intervals (ISIs) may be useful in determining the fundamental mechanisms for variability in ISIs. A method for determination of certain types of nonlinear deterministic structure in spike trains is suggested for application to the auditory modality.

Chapter 4 by Dr. Weyand discusses the neuron doctrine as a methodology to understand how the brain and mind works. Drs. Guido, Ziburkus and Fu-Sun Lo provide a detailed analysis on plasticity of the developing visual thalamus in Chapter 5. Specifically, the authors review work in a rodent model of visual development to examine how retinal inputs from the two eyes undergo a significant period of modification during early life to form adult like patterns of connectivity in the lateral geniculate nucleus. The accompanying CD ROM provides a good Power Point presentation supplementing the information in the chapter.

Chapter 6, The Role of Auditory Physiologic Measures in Understanding Human Cortical Function, by Dr. Hood and Dr. Berlin starts with a short and excellent review of the principles that can be applied in the evaluation of the auditory nervous system; next, it discusses the auditory physiologic responses from the cochlea, VIII nerve and brain stem pathways such as otoacoustic emissions, auditory brainstem response, auditory middle latency, late potentials and event related potentials. The next section launches into brief but excellent discussions on the efferent auditory reflexes, evaluating auditory processing, auditory neuropathy/dys-synchrony and localizable cortical hearing deficits.

Lastly, Chapter 7 by Dr. Morlet and colleagues addresses what the authors claim to be a "powerful tool and highly effective tool" to train the temporal acoustic skill of humans in coping with rapid transitions inherent in speech. The authors claim the tool has been successful with children suffering from central auditory processing disorders (CAPD), specific language impairment (SLI), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/HD). Further on, the chapter provides supportive detailed data, a section on how to treat and manage children with SLI and CAPD, and finally concludes with a section providing a synopsis on the history of Fast ForWordTM and temporal processing disorders. Addition information is provided in the accompanying CD ROM where a video with Dr. Berlin provides a nice explanation on the features of Fast ForWord&tm;.

CRITIQUE: Although the title of the book suggests the topic of brain plasticity, the core of this book is mostly about neuroethology research and addresses plasticity indirectly. Supplementing the text of the book is a CD-ROM that provides additional information to Chapters 5, 6 and 7. I found the CD-ROM very helpful. This book is an excellent guide for the audiologist with an interest in research and certainly will provide a good basis for scientific understanding of the processes of brain plasticity by means of animal research models. I believe some readers will find the knowledge gained can be clinically useful. If we (audiologists) claim and believe we are hearing experts, reading and understanding works such as this book will certainly contribute to making us better professionals.