From aiding us in safely crossing the street by detecting the sound of oncoming vehicles, to our appreciation of music and our ability to communicate via language, the brain's auditory system rapidly extracts meaningful information from the sound waves that hit our ears. How do neurons perform this remarkable operation?
This is an important question to answer. Hearing disorders afflict ~12-20% of the population, are associated with depression, and are a major modifiable risk factor for dementia. Given the need for treatments of hearing disorders, a mechanistic understanding of the central auditory system is necessary to identify the extent to which new therapies may be able to restore the brain's ability to encode sound.
We address these issues by studying the physiology of central auditory circuits. Our goal is to provide mechanistic and generalizable explanations for how the nervous system extracts meaningful sensory information from the outside world.
We want to understand:
- To what extent does "higher-order", predictive information control central auditory function?
- How do neurons extract meaningful information from noisy or ambiguous sensory signals?
- How is information routed from the auditory system to motor and action selection pathways?
- What are the cellular mechanisms governing synaptic plasticity in models of hearing disorders?