Research opportunities at The Institute of Hearing Research are related to the Institute’s two key goals:
Investigating the mechanisms of central auditory function
We use a wide range of methodologies to examine the mechanisms of how the brain processes sounds and how auditory processing is modulated by learning and attention. Single- and multi-cell recordings are used to investigate how auditory information is processed in cortical and subcortical structures and how activity in these structures is modulated by top-down control from the auditory cortex or higher-order cortical fields.
We are also developing methods for recording auditory neural activity from awake, behaving animals to study the neural correlates of sound perception and auditory attention.
In humans, neuroimaging techniques [functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electro- and magnetoencephalography (EEG/MEG)], psychophysical testing and neurocomputational modelling are used to investigate basic auditory functions such as sound localisation, or the perception of musical pitch or loudness, and to explore the mechanisms of plasticity resulting from auditory training and adaptation to hearing loss. Neuroimaging is also used to explore higher-level cognitive factors in hearing, such as multi-modal integration and auditory attention.
Developing diagnostic and therapeutic tools for hearing disability
Many of the research projects conducted at IHR are either directly or indirectly related to issues of hearing disability and its diagnosis and remediation.
One project, which will be conducted in collaboration with the ENT Department of the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, seeks to investigate how deaf patients, whose hearing has been restored by means of auditory prostheses (cochlear implants), perceive and process sounds, and how these devices could be improved to enhance their performance.
Another project explores how speech perception in deaf and hearing-impaired patients can be improved by lip reading, the eventual goal being to develop a specialised training scheme for improving lip-reading ability in these patients. A project conducted at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary examines why hearing impairment often leads to particular difficulties in understanding speech in noisy every-day listening situations. Finally, a project conducted in collaboration between the University and Clinical Sections of IHR in Nottingham seeks to investigate the role of auditory processing deficits in developmental speech and language disorders, such as dyslexia. The aim of this project is to find new methods for diagnosing these deficits and to develop auditory training schemes to remediate them.