Two scientists at the University of California, San Francisco  figured out how selective hearing works. Known as the “cocktail party effect,” people are capable of focusing on just one person speaking within a room full of people speaking.

“To understand how selective hearing works in the brain, UCSF neurosurgeon Edward Chang, MD, a faculty member in the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery and the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, and UCSF postdoctoral fellow Nima Mesgarani, PhD, worked with three patients who were undergoing brain surgery for severe epilepsy.”

They had to identify areas in the brain that disable seizures. These are found by looking at the brains activity within a couple of weeks  “with a thin sheet of up to 256 electrodes placed under the skull on the brain’s outer surface or cortex. These electrodes record activity in the temporal lobe — home to the auditory cortex.”

“The new findings show that the representation of speech in the cortex does not just reflect the entire external acoustic environment but instead just what we really want or need to hear.”

If you want to “experiment with the art of hearing,” go to