Auditory Systems Physiology
Our group employs a system physiology approach to characterize mechanisms and functional consequences of sensorineural hearing loss. In vivo electrophysiological recordings of responses from the cochlea, auditory nerve and brainstem, behavioral tests and morphological studies are used to explore sound encoding in the rodent auditory system under normal and diseased conditions. Our main interest concerns partial defects of the inner hair cell ribbon synapse in which summation potentials from the auditory nerve and brainstem are partly preserved. Here, single fiber recordings from the auditory nerve during acoustic stimulation are a powerful tool to explore synaptic function. Startle responses and behavioral experiments are used to further assay the systems and behavioral consequences of hair cell synapse dysfunction. The correlation of our results with in vitro studies and non-invasive auditory tests aims to improve our understanding of auditory physiology and to seek new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in hearing-impaired subjects.