Sensory Science Research

Research Collaboration

October 4, 2017

Dr Michael Hautus (University of Auckland) recently returned from a trip to meet up with collaborators in the United States (Professors Neil Macmillan and Caren Rotello), the Netherlands (Dr Danielle van Hout), and South Korea (Dr Hye-Seong Lee). Discussion about past and future research and writing projects was productive and enjoyable.

Dr Hautus (centre back) and Dr Lee (centre front) enjoying lunch with the PG students from Dr Lee’s laboratory at Ewha Womans University. (Photo: Jiseon Chang)


Sense of smell could be clue to dementia, US research finds

October 2, 2017

Older people with a poor sense of smell have a greater chance of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, US research has shown.

The discovery raises the prospect of using "sniffing sticks" to flag individuals needing closer monitoring in the next five years.

Though humans lack the acute sense of some animals such as dogs, they can distinguish up to a trillion different odours.

The brain's ability to sort and recognise smells may provide a way of spotting early damage caused by neurodegenerative disease, the research suggests.



150 years of Kiwi science - 10 big moments

April 5, 2017

Our research community tonight gathers in Wellington for a gala dinner celebrating 150 years of our leading body for science and the humanities, the Royal Society Te Aparangi. Science reporter Jamie Morton looks at 10 highlights in its history.



Modern songs made for shorter attention spans - study

April 5, 2017

Don't bore us, get to the chorus.

That's a greatest hits album by Swedish pop rock duo Roxette, but is also seems to be the mantra for modern day pop music - which has dramatically cut its intros compared to 1980s power ballads.

A new study from Ohio State University looked at the evolution of top 10 chart-topping hits from 1986 to 2015 and found some stark changes - big hair and fashion aside.

The intros to songs, which used to average around 20 seconds in the mid-80s, are now only around five seconds long.

Song tempos are also getting faster, with an average increase of 8 percent; song titles aren't as length either with a trend toward using just one word.

Study author Hubert Léveillé Gauvin, a music theory doctoral student, puts that down to shorter attention spans and the need for musicians to grab fickle listeners' attention in the age of streaming.

"It's survival of the fittest: Songs that manage to grab and sustain listeners' attention get played and others get skipped. There's always another song," Mr Léveillé Gauvin says.

"If people can skip so easily and at no cost, you have to do something to grab their attention."

He says the difference between mid-80s songs and today's songs is "insane" - a 78 percent cut - but "makes sense".


Reference: Hubert Léveillé Gauvin. Drawing listener attention in popular music: Testing five musical features arising from the theory of attention economy. Musicae Scientiae, 2017; 102986491769801 DOI: 10.1177/1029864917698010


How your daughters future doors may already be closed by the time she is six

March 31, 2017

Imagine you are reading a story to a child; the story goes something like this:

There is one person at work who is really, really smart. They can figure out how to do things quickly, they come up with answers much faster and better than anyone else.

Now imagine telling this story:

There is one person at work who is really, really nice. They like to help others with their problems, they are friendly to everyone.

At the end of the story, you show pictures of adult males and females to the child and ask them which person they think was being described.

What gender do you think they would pick for each story?

This exact experiment was carried out alongside a series of others as part of a recent study published in the journal Science. The scientists found that a child’s perception of brilliance goes through dramatic changes between ages 5 and 7.

After the story, the five year olds associated brilliance with their own gender at roughly equal levels. Just one year later, the 6 year old girls were significantly less likely than the boys to associate brilliance with their own gender. By the age of 7, when given a choice of toys to play with, the majority of the girls chose not to play with games labelled for ‘really, really smart children’.