ANECHOIC RESEARCH FACILITY
Echo-free silence is found in UCI’s anechoic sound chamber
When Clinton Haycraft, head music teacher at The Discovery Prep School in Aliso Viejo, wanted his students to feel how the human ear receives and translates acoustic information to orient the brain, he knew the UCI Department of Cognitive Sciences was the perfect place for such an experiment. Known for its focus on the brain, perception, cognition, and behavior, the department boasts a premier anechoic sound chamber.
“I had taken my music classes to such facilities while teaching at the University at Buffalo, New York, and it always proved to be a very fun and informative experience,” says Haycraft who holds a Ph.D. in music composition. “Understanding how the human ears use acoustic information to orient the human brain in various environments is one aspect of our class discussions.”
The School of Social Sciences Anechoic Facility includes a large (12.5′x12.5′x7′ interior) acoustically isolated RF-shielded chamber that allows researchers to completely isolate sounds in an echo-free environment. Officially opened in fall 2011, the facility features state-of-the-art equipment including a harmonizer, function generators, oscilloscopes, mixers/equalizers, amplifiers, an auditory brainstem recording setup, MIDI microprocessors, and research-quality vocal microphones and headphones. It’s managed by UCI cognitive scientists Bruce Berg, Greg Hickok, Ginny Richards, and Kourosh Saberi who focus on hearing, speech, and language.
“One in six Americans will experience a communication disorder in his or her lifetime, and 3 out of 1000 newborns in the U.S. have a measurable hearing loss that can affect their speech, language, and cognitive development,” says Saberi. “Communication and hearing disorders affect not only physical wellbeing, but also social, emotional, recreational, and educational qualities of life. The effects are not limited to the individual, but often affect their families and friends.”
At UCI, faculty and students use the latest research techniques and cutting edge technologies to better understand how the human auditory system processes complex sounds such as speech and music.
“And with the opening of the Facility for Imaging and Brain Research, we’re collaboratively conducting research that will help us gain insight into how different regions of the brain are involved in processing sounds and how damage to these areas affects the perception of sounds,” he says. •