Auditory Neurophysiology Laboratory Research
Everything we experience in the sensory world (i.e., vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste and proprioception) is translated into electrical bursts of activity, called spikes, in the neurons of our brains. We study how sensory information is encoded in trains of spikes across neurons, and how higher-level areas of the brain decode the spike trains of lower-level neurons to form a percept of the sensory world.
In investigating sensorineural coding, we focus on binaural hearing—i.e., the specific type of hearing conferred by having two ears. Binaural hearing underlies our ability to pinpoint the location of a sound source and assists in segregating a sound source of interest in a world of constant, competing sources.
Our lab uses neurophysiological approaches to measure the spiking of neurons in auditory areas of the brain and psychophysical approaches to measure perceptual abilities, both in response to binaural stimuli. We use sophisticated mathematical analyses to quantify information in neural data, and develop computational models to explore the function of neural circuits.
Current questions being addressed in the lab are:
- How does the neural encoding of sound source location change in the face of changes in other aspects of an auditory stimulus, such as sound level, frequency spectrum, amplitude modulation, etc.?
- How does the central auditory system encode the location of a particular sound source in presence of many competing sound sources?
- How does noise-induced hearing loss (affecting about 26 million Americans; NIDCD, 08/2015) affect the ability to localize a sound? … or segregate multiple, competing sound sources? Further, how does hearing loss change the neural circuits that underlie these abilities?