Research project title

Neurobiology of hearing and deafness

Research description

One research area in the lab is the study of neurodegeneration in the cochlea in sensorineural deafness. This is the degeneration and death of neurons in the cochlea that can occur after loss of the auditory sensory cells (hair cells). Degeneration of these neurons can reduce the effectiveness of cochlear implants, the only means to restore hearing to people with sensorineural deafness. To determine why the neurons die we use a variety of molecular and genetic methods in vivo and in vitro including surgical manipulation, transgenic mouse models, digital imaging, and microarray-based gene expression profiling.

A second research area is the study of the mechanism by which loud noise damages synaptic connections between hair cells and neurons in the cochlea. This damage is currently irreversible and can accelerate hearing loss even long after the original noise exposure. We developed an in vitro system for studying this damage and are using it to investigate how the damage may be prevented and how it may be repaired. Methods include organ culture, digital imaging and transgenic mice.

Undergraduate minimum qualifications

Introductory chemistry and biology, basic computer skills, eagerness to learn.

Undergraduate role

Assistance with data collection and analysis.