Brain Determining Body?

One of the most sensitive, and often the most ignored, sensory system is the ear and the auditory pathways of the brain. Auditory information is so constant in our daily lives, that we can’t possibly attend to all of it at once. Such information is, however, extremely detailed, and with mere micro-adjustments of the body or minute changes in pitch, the ear and the brain can tell us a lot about our surroundings with hardly any conscious effort. Recently, the relationship between the ear and the brain has grown even more fascinating in light of a study conducted by Bielefeld University in combination with the Max Planck Institute.

(for more detailed information, see the following link

The researchers studied different aspects of sound perception in relation to physical location, and found three different connections between pitch, perception, and physicality. First, people perceive high pitched sounds as coming from higher in space than lower pitches. Second, they discover that the majority of high-pitched sounds in the natural environment come from higher up. Finally, and probably most interesting, they found that the physical characteristics of the outer ear may have actually evolved to process higher-pitched sounds more effectively. That is, more energy is reserved for processing higher pitched sounds within the part of the ear that filters sounds coming from higher positions in space.

In light of this possibility, I think it appropriate to consider the implications of these findings on the brain-body relationship (and, of course, the “chicken or the egg” argument). Is it possible that the brain’s interpretation of higher sounds as being higher in space led to a particular shape of the ear being “perceived” as evolutionarily beneficial, or is it more likely that the increased frequency (no pun intended) of higher pitches being higher up in space led to differing spatial interpretations? And where else might we find these relationships between sensation and perception defining one another?

Similar perceptual differences might have also arisen in the visual and gustatory systems. Brighter lights might be perceived as higher in space due to the sun’s position in our environment and perhaps different tastes might be perceived as “higher” or “lower” based on the mapping of space on the tongue. There is certainly a lot of research still to be done on the brains perception of the body’s experience of the surrounding environment, but studies like these get us closer to understanding the very complex interactions, which shape our understanding of the world.


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