Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One Night Only: Nearly Deaf Percussionist Evelyn Glennie with Allison Coffin, Ph.D.

On Thursday, April 7th the San Diego Symphony and Capita Foundation presented an evening of science and music featuring world-renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and research scientist Allison Coffin, Ph.D. While designed for deaf and hard of hearing students and their families and friends, this special evening proved to be a delightful performance for anyone interested in recent innovations in hearing research or the unconventional yet beautiful renditions of Dame Evelyn Glennie. In addition, some students were able to meet Dame Glennie, who they look up to as a role-model and idol, after the performance.

More photos in the Gallery.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Inaugural L2W Sail & Ski Fundraiser a Huge Success

While the East Coast was shut down due to snowy weather (Feb 5-6), San Diego's most unique charity event, Listen to the Wind (L2W), drew families and friends together in support of hearing research. Decked in shorts and tees, participants enjoyed three sailing match races on San Diego Bay on Saturday. On Sunday, ski buffs hit the slopes in the sunshine of Snow Summit. In total, $4,000 was raised to support the discovery of better auditory screening methods for infancts by co-investigators Radha Kalluri,Ph.D. and Caroline Abdala, Ph.D.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

CFAR Grant Recipient Identifies Brain Region Key to Tinnitus

A team of researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine, led by Avril Genene Holt, Ph.D. and Bruce Berkowitz, Ph.D. have identified the area of the brain known as the inferior colliculus as key to tinnitus - at least in experimental tinnitus in animal models. "The next steps include testing how the brain responds to experimental tinnitus over time," Dr. Holt said. "This information will help us determine more targeted treatment options for tinnitus." According to Holt's team, the results pave the way for future studies correlating the severity and longevity of tinnitus with hearing loss as well as for the development of tools for evaluating treatments.

Dr. Holt was awarded a Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) grant in the 2009-2010 grant cycle. To read more about this research, click here.  To read about Dr. Holt's CFAR grant funded research, click here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kevin Frank, Ph.D.

"Testing the perceptual limits of acoustic and electric hearing in children using cochlear implants"

The scientific way of doing this project is to use psychophysics. Unfortunately, psychophysics are boring and because of this, typically only adults can be tested. We are developing a video game to attempt to do this testing in children. We hope to correlate other types of measures from children with cochlear implants with what we learn from this game. If we can, we might be able to imagine ways of improving on the design of the cochlear implants.

Claus-Peter Richter, MD., Ph.D.

Claus-Peter Richter, MD., Ph.D.

"The current distribution in the cochlea and coding of acoustic information"

(1) The current distribution in the cochlea:
Although cochlear implants are able to restore some auditory sensation, they are far from providing normal hearing. This project will provide for the first time fundamental data on the current path in the cochleae and will quantify changes of the current path that occur after neural degeneration.

(2) Coding of acoustic information:
For a cochlear implant user the speech signal has to be processed and encoded in electrical signals to be sent to the implanted electrode contact. This project will test a possible novel coding strategy that is based on a stochastic model (Hidden Markov Model, HMM) developed by the PI to describe the activity of a single auditory nerve fiber.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Zheng-Yi Chen, D. Phil. / Albert Edge, Ph.D.

"Identification and analysis of inner ear stem cell genes"

The major research focus of our laboratories is on hair cell regeneration. Mammalian inner ear hair cells do not regenerate. As a consequence of damage to hair cells, and lack of available treatment, deafness and balance disorders are permanent in general. In lower vertebrate such as chick and fish, however, inner ear hair cells are regenerated by cell cycle re-entry of supporting cells/progenitor cells, and by transdifferentiation from supporting cells to hair cells. One approach to regenerating mammalian hair cells would be to activate endogenous inner ear stem cells by manipulation of genes involved in cell cycle or fate determination. However, no inner ear stem cells (IESC) genes have been identified, severely limiting the use of IESC as a source for hair cell regeneration. In these studies we will identify genes that are critical for IESC self-renewal and differentiation to hair cells.

Project Name: "Identification and analysis of inner ear stem cell genes

Victor Pikov, Ph.D.

"Tinnitus - related pathophysiology in the cochlear nucleus"

Tinnitus, a manifestation of phantom auditory sensations, is a prevalent problem affecting 14% of the general population, with 3% severely affected by this intrusive condition. Despite high prevalence of tinnitus and significant associated financial and psychological costs, no effective treatment is currently available and its mechanisms remain largely unknown.

Project Name: "Tinnitus - related pathophysiology in the cochlear nucleus"

Paul A. Webster, Ph.D.

"Identifying and Treating Biofilm Infections Associated with Otitis Media"

Paul Webster - Even with the availability of a variety of antibiotics, otitis media remains one of the major causes of morbidity and the most common cause of hearing loss in children.

The House Ear Institute seeks to understand the causes of persistent otitis media infections in infants and children and to find ways of improving diagnosis and treatment.

Such persistent infections may well be the result of bacterial biofilms forming in the middle ear. Biofilms have been broadly defined as multicellular assemblages of microorganisms and extracellular products attached to an abiotic or biotic surface. The extracellular products form a matrix, typically rich in sugar moieties, that confers protection from host immune responses, phagocytosis and antibiotic treatment.

Project Name: "Inhibition of apoptosis as a means to mitigate hearing loss in mice"

Lisa V. Goodrich, Ph.D.

"Rewiring the Cochlea: A Genetic Screen for Regulators of Auditory Circuit Assembly"

As the sole conduit for sound information from the inner ear to the central auditory system, spiral ganglion neurons are important therapeutic targets for the treatment of deafness.  Indeed, the promise of hair cell regeneration is limited by whether new hair cells can be properly innervated by spiral ganglion neurons.  Thus, efforts to stimulate hair cell regeneration must be coordinated with efforts to induce neurite outgrowth in surviving neurons or to replace lost neurons with stem cells. The long term goal of the work in my laboratory is to dissect the genetic basis of auditory circuit assembly, focusing on the molecules that drive auditory-specific programs of differentiation in spiral ganglion neurons.  Towards this end, we have developed genetic tools that allow us to visualize the pattern of innervation in the cochlea at any stage of development (see figure).  We have also created a catalog of genes that are uniquely expressed in spiral ganglion neurons but not in the closely related vestibular ganglion neurons, which mediate the sense of balance.  Currently, we are elucidating functions for these auditory-specific genes, both by analyzing available mutant mice and by developing a new technique for performing a forward genetic screen.  Together, these studies will deepen our understanding of the normal developmental program for spiral ganglion neurons, information that is critical for future efforts to engineer na├»ve stem cells to re-wire the cochlea as a treatment for deafness.

Project Name:"Rewiring the Cochlea: A Genetic Screen for Regulators of Auditory Circuit Assembly"

Joseph Donaher Ph.D.

The SANDBOX is a virtual reality, computer based program which will allow educators, parents and other interested parties to enter a realistic school-based setting while having a disability like stuttering or a hearing loss simulated electronically. They will then be asked to maneuver through a set of activities similar to those routinely faced by children with disabilities. In this way, the families and professionals may gain a heightened sense of the obstacles faced daily by the child and the inherent difficulty of incorporating rehabilitation strategies into everyday experiences.

This tool will also allow clinicians and children with disabilities to practice strategies or techniques in a safe virtual environment prior to trying them in the classroom. The SANDBOX program will also allow researchers to explore situations commonly experienced by children with developmental disabilities. Thus, the Sandbox program is a powerful tool to increase carryover of new skills, to advance our knowledge base on developmental disabilities and to educate families and professionals.