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Understanding sound, defeating pest resistance and swapping fat for air - latest BBSRC research news

18 January 2008

The following stories feature in the latest issue of BBSRC Business, the quarterly research highlights magazine from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Lend me your ears - but the world will sound very different
University of Oxford scientists have found that the part of the brain that deals with sound, the auditory cortex, is adapted to each individual, and continues to adapt to the environment through life. It means that if you could borrow someone else's ears you would not be able to distinguish where sounds were coming from until your auditory neurons had re-learnt how to do it with the new ears. By understanding this, and how auditory neurons seem to be able to handle changes in pitch, timbre and frequency together, researchers hope to be able to develop sophisticated new hearing aids and voice recognition systems.
(Page 6)


Dr Jan Schnupp, University of Oxford, Tel: 01865 272513, e-mail:

Beating evolution to overcome pest resistance
Evolution has a lot to answer for. Growing insecticide resistance is in part because insect pests are able to evolve resistance. BBSRC-funded research, with industrial partner Syngenta, is aiming to tackle the problem. Scientists are developing new techniques to track the spread of emerging resistant sub-species of damaging pest and other research teams are investigating insect metabolism, both to develop new targets for pesticide compounds and to better understand how insect metabolism evolves to provide pesticide resistance.
(Page 14)

Dr Katie Tearall, BBSRC, Tel: 01793 414688, e-mail:

Swapping fat for air makes tasty low fat foods
One of the big problems with low fat products is the change in taste and texture from full fat products. This results in people not taking the healthier option even if the know it is better for them. Scientists at the University of Birmingham are studying an unusual fungal protein called hydrophobin which could be used to replace fatty oil droplets in foods such as mayonnaise and dressings with tiny bubbles of air. The air bubbles would have the same 'feel' in the mouth as the oil but without the fat content.
(Page 18)


Professor Ian Norton, University of Birmingham, Tel: 0121 414 5296, e-mail:


Notes to editors

These stories all appear in the January 2008 issue of BBSRC Business. For copies please contact the BBRSC Media Office.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382