Unilateral conductive hearing loss (CHL) during development can produce long-term deficits in auditory functions including sound localization. The anatomical and physiological mechanisms responsible for and the time period over which these deficits occur are not well understood. A sensitive period for the development of binaural hearing is hypothesized to accommodate changes in the acoustical cues to location due to head and pinnae growth. While plasticity may allow calibration of neural circuits to the cues, it may also adapt to inappropriate cues resulting from CHL. The goals are to understand the concurrent development of the cues to location and the circuits that encode them in animals with normal hearing and those reared from birth with CHL. The primary focus of this proposal is to study the encoding of the interaural level difference (ILD) cue to sound location in adult animals with normal hearing and those that have had a mild to moderate unilateral CHL present from birth.
In Specific Aim 1, extracellular recordings (both single- and multi-unit) will be used to study the monaural and binaural response properties of neurons in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC), a midbrain nucleus in the ascending auditory pathway that receives afferent inputs from the brainstem nuclei that initially encode the cues to sound location.
This aim tests the specific hypothesis that the acoustic coding capabilities of ILD-sensitive ICC neurons change in order to compensate for the altered ILD cues that result as a consequence of the unilateral CHL. To test this hypothesis, ILD sensitivity will be measured for pure-tone and noise stimuli and virtual space receptive fields will be measured for monaural and binaural stimulation under both normal hearing cue conditions and a """"""""virtual earplug"""""""" condition that simulates those due to CHL.
Specific Aim 2 explores how CHL due to fluid buildup in the middle ear (effusion) affects the entire ensemble of acoustic cues to location, the interaural time and level differences and the monaural spectral shape cues.

Public Health Relevance

Common problems that arise during infancy such as middle ear disease (otitis media with effusion, or simply ear infections) can lead to deficits in binaural hearing, due to the associated conductive hearing losses, that have been shown to lead to future language, learning, and social disabilities. Basic developmental studies of the mammalian binaural auditory pathway will determine if, where, and how long the binaural system is plastic and the time course over which it may recover from early deficits. A thorough understanding of normal and abnormal development will facilitate the design of new and better ways to identify, prevent, and possibly to treat early-onset hearing loss.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1-SRB-L (49))
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Cyr, Janet
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University of Colorado Denver
Schools of Medicine
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Jones, Heath G; Brown, Andrew D; Koka, Kanthaiah et al. (2015) Sound frequency-invariant neural coding of a frequency-dependent cue to sound source location. J Neurophysiol 114:531-9
Thornton, Jennifer L; Chevallier, Keely M; Koka, Kanthaiah et al. (2013) Conductive hearing loss induced by experimental middle-ear effusion in a chinchilla model reveals impaired tympanic membrane-coupled ossicular chain movement. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 14:451-64
Thornton, Jennifer L; Chevallier, Keely M; Koka, Kanthaiah et al. (2012) The conductive hearing loss due to an experimentally induced middle ear effusion alters the interaural level and time difference cues to sound location. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 13:641-54
Koka, Kanthaiah; Jones, Heath G; Thornton, Jennifer L et al. (2011) Sound pressure transformations by the head and pinnae of the adult Chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera). Hear Res 272:135-47