Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have made a discovery that could change the way we think about hearing.
Most of what neurologists know about hearing is based on one set of highly active, large, and relatively easy-to-detect neurons. But the team at Johns Hopkins has discovered a very tiny second set of neurons in the snail shell-like structure known as the cochlea.
These smaller “second” neurons carry signals from the ear to the brain much like their larger counterparts. But, unlike their larger counterparts, these neurons only respond to the loudest and most disturbing of sounds, such as sirens and alarms. Most sounds do not elicit any response whatsoever.
What does this mean? It is too early to say, but it suggests that the brain might have actually have separate set of hearing tools that serve to warn the human body of impending trauma.
In other words, the reason that loud sounds startle us could be that our bodies actually have their own built-in alarm systems.