In the developed world, hearing loss is the most common sensory disability, with around 15% of the population classified as deaf or hard of hearing. Critical to the treatment of hearing loss in later life is the discovery that the mature brain remains plastic, enabling perceptual abilities to be adjusted in response to changes in input. We seek to improve our understanding of the neural basis for auditory perception by investigating how sounds are represented and coded within the brain, while at the same time exploring the neural basis for the adaptive changes that allow humans and other species to interact successfully with their surroundings.
To achieve this, we use a multidisciplinary approach to examine the functional organization and plasticity of higher levels of the central auditory pathway. We study how auditory processing and perception are influenced by the context in which sounds are presented and by learning. By employing methods for silencing specific neural pathways, we hope to identify the neural circuits responsible for the dynamic processing of auditory information, while recordings from cortical and subcortical areas are used to reveal how neural coding strategies change as a result of learning and experience. Finally, we are asking whether its adaptive capabilities allow the brain to compensate for the abnormal inputs that result from hearing loss and its restoration by cochlear implantation.