Dept.: Professor, Department of Psychology; Affiliate, Bloedel Hearing Research Center
Neuroscience Focus Group:
Our research program is concerned with the broad question of how complex patterns of sound are analyzed in the mammalian central nervous system. Much of our research focuses on hearing in echolocating bats. Bats are ideal subjects for auditory research beacues they depend almost entirely on hearing to navigate and capture prey; moreover, their echolocation behavior is well understood and their auditory systems are highly developed and accessible for study. The auditory brainstem of all mammals, including bats, comprises a highly complex system of parallel pathways. A major goal of our research is to understand the mechanisms through which each component of this system processes information for transmission to higher centers, and to determine how each component contributes to the perception of sound. Ongoing studies in our laboratory focus on dynamic interactions within and among neural circuits at multiple levels of the central auditory system, utilizing a variety of experimental approaches and techniques. Examples of ongoing research projects include:
- neuropharmacological experiments in which selected brainstem pathways are reversibly inactivated to determine their role in the analysis of sound;
- whole-cell patch clamp recording in the auditory midbrain of awake animals to elucidate the synaptic and cellular mechanisms that create neural selectivity for biologically important patterns of sound;
- anatomical and electrophysiological experiments to identify links between auditory and motor systems and to determine the role of feedback from the motor system in modulating the processing of auditory information.