Auditory Circuit lab
Acoustic information is encoded into a neural code by the synapses of inner hair cells with the spiral ganglion neurons (SGN). The resulting place, rate and temporal codes carried by the SGNs contain all the information about the acoustic environment. This neural code is integrated and refined by the neurons of the auditory brainstem to extract further information, for example, to derive the pitch or to compute the interaural time difference accounting for the horizontal localization of low frequency sounds. Our recently started group aims to elucidate mechanisms underlying the integration of the neural code in the auditory brainstem with a strong focus on the refinement of the temporal code, the so-called “phase-locking enhancement”. In order to optically evoke phase-locking in the auditory pathway, we are also investigating photosensitizing tools, as optogenetics and photopharmacology.
Our research strategy combines: i) photosensitization of the SGNs and optical stimulation of the cochlea to precisely control the neural code statistic at the input of the auditory pathway; ii) single neuron recordings from the distinct neuronal populations constituting the network of interest; iii) information theory; iv) morphological imaging using confocal and light sheet microscopy; and v) computational modelling. Photosensitization of the SGNs relies on the unique expertise developed by the Optogenetic Cochlear Implant Research Program of the Institute for Auditory Neuroscience.
Our work will contribute to understand the integration of the neural code in the auditory pathway and its implication in physiological and pathological conditions (i.e. cochlear deafferentation). Our findings will be implemented in the coding strategies of the novel optical cochlear implant.
The group is supported by the DFG Cluster of Excellence MBExC “From Molecular Machines to Networks of Excitable Cells”, the DFG Priority Program 1926 “Next Generation Optogenetics” and the Institute for Auditory Neuroscience.