Scientists Find That Spiders Can Hear You From Across The Room

Scientists Find That Spiders Can Hear You From Across The Room

We all know them. Those 8-legged creepy, crawling terrors that send some of us running in fear for our lives – spiders. Spiders, the stuff of nightmares, just got more terrifying. Scientists have recently discovered that spiders can hear us from across the room, even if we can’t see them!

The Surprising Discovery

Scientists have known for quite some time that spiders have exceptional vision, particularly jumping spiders. They’ve even known that spiders are able to feel nearby vibrations. But, because they don’t have ears, scientists believed they couldn’t hear at all.

“The standard textbooks say that spiders are acutely sensitive to airborne vibrations from nearby sources, sounds about a body length or a few centimeters away. We have discovered that jumping spiders can hear things from much farther away than this,” says Gil Menda, co-researcher of Cornell University.


This discovery actually happened by accident. The researchers were studying how spiders process visual information by making neural recordings of their brain activity. After taking a recording, Gil Menda moved his chair and it squeaked.

“The way we do neural recordings,” explains Paul Shamble, co-researcher, “we set up a speaker so that you can hear when neurons fire – they make this really distinct ‘pop’ sound – and when Gil’s chair squeaked, the neuron we were recording from started popping.”

Gil moved his chair again and the neuron popped again. Not convinced of what they were seeing, the two researchers started clapping. When the spider neurons responded, the researchers started moving farther away. They reached 5 meters away from the spider and the reaction continued.


The two were amazed. “You thought they were just these little creatures of vibration and vision,” says Paul Shamble, “and now all of a sudden you realize that they can hear, too.”

The Research

Now that they knew spiders could hear, the team conducted additional research to figure out how. They tested spiders’ hearing by using both behavioral experiments and neural recordings. The behavioral experiments were done to determine the spiders’ reactions to sounds. The neural recordings were to determine which frequencies caused the spiders to respond.

According to the experiment, spiders are most sensitive to low-frequency sounds of between 80 and 130 hertz (Hz). This frequency is the same as that emitted by the wingbeats of parasitoid wasps, a predator of spiders. Spiders freeze when they hear this sound, an anti-predatory behavior.


How Spiders Hear

If spiders don’t have ears, how is all of this even possible? Turns out, the hairs on their legs are sensitive to sound.

Previously, scientists believed these hairs were only able to detect airborne vibrations from just a few centimeters away. This new discovery has shown that spiders process the vibration into neural activity. In other words, spiders are not simply sensing vibrations, but rather hearing.

To test this, the researchers placed water on the spider’s legs in order to muffle the vibrations. The spider stopped firing auditory neurons, meaning the spider could no longer hear.


Significance of the Finding

This research only involved jumping spiders, but follow-up studies show that they are not the only ones with this ability. Fishing spiders, wolf spiders, net-casting spiders, and house spiders are all able to hear. And since most spiders have hairy legs, it is likely that others can hear too.

Why does all of this matter? This finding could result in new technologies for people. In the future, devices such as hearing aids or microphones may include hairlike additions, resulting in improved performance.

As Menda says, “In the movies, Spiderman has this strange, additional ’spidey-sense’ that helps him sense danger—it turns out the real-life spidey-sense of spiders might actually be hearing!” Which is exactly what we need, spiders with actual spidey-senses.

Don’t let any of this worry you, though. If spiders are eavesdropping on our conversations, they can’t repeat anything they hear. It’s not like they have the ability to talk… or do they?

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Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.


     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.


    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence


      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.


      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]


      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.


        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.


          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]



          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via


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