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Auditory Neuroscience and Optogenetics Laboratory

An optical cochlear implant compared with an electrical cochlear implant.

The Auditory Neuroscience and Optogenetics Laboratory studies how the auditory system processes acoustic information in normal and prosthetic hearing. We study the requirement in frequency resolution of auditory coding in the cochlea for vocal communication in primates working with marmosets as a non-human primate model with a rich vocal communication. Our work is driven by the motivation to enhance the frequency resolution of sound coding by the clinical cochlear implant for improved hearing restoration.

The cochlear implant, used worldwide by more than 500.000 hearing impaired people, typically enables open speech understanding and is considered the most successful neuroprosthesis. Nonetheless, listening in noisy environments as well as music appreciation remain challenging mostly because of the poor frequency and intensity resolution that results from broad current spread from of each of the 1-2 dozens of electrode contacts (see image above: Electrical Cochlear Implant). Since light can be conveniently focused, using optogenetic stimulation of the spiral ganglion of the cochlea (see image above: Optical Cochlear Implant) promises a fundamental improvement of frequency and intensity coding compared to that achievable with electrical cochlear implants.

This principle involves the expression of light-sensitive ion channels, so called channelrhodopsins in the neurons in order to render them light-sensitive. Placing linear emitter arrays (e.g. (Gossler et al., 2014), see figure 1) into the cochlea, one might be enable true multichannel stimulation with tens of independent information channels to the neurons. Building on our work in rodents at the University Medical Center Göttingen (Hernandez et al., 2014, see figure 2), our research at the German Primate Center employs the marmoset as a late preclinical primate model to study the feasibility of optogenetic cochlear implants prior to translation into the clinic and specifically to gain insights from behavioral experiments into the quality of sound perception with optogenetic stimulation of the cochlea in comparison to acoustic and electrical stimulation.

Funding comes from the European Research Council through the advanced grant OptoHear, the DFG Leibniz Program, the University Medical Center Göttingen and State of Lower Saxony.

Fig. 1. Linear array of micro-light emitting diodes (µLED) generated by Schwarz, Ruther and colleagues in Freiburg. Image: Christian Gossler
Fig. 1. Linear array of micro-light emitting diodes (µLED) generated by Schwarz, Ruther and colleagues in Freiburg. Image: Christian Gossler
Fig. 2. Upscaled 3D-printed model of the mouse cochlea based on x-ray tomography data.
Fig. 2. Upscaled 3D-printed model of the mouse cochlea based on x-ray tomography data. Image: Daniel Keppeler

Publications

Gossler, C., Bierbrauer, C., Moser, R., Kunzer, M., Holc, K., Koehler, K., Wagner, J., Schwaerzle, M., Ruther, P., Paul, O., et al. (2014) GaN-based micro-LED arrays on flexible substrates for optical cochlear implants. Journal of Physics D: Appl. Phys. 47 205401 doi:10.1088/0022-3727/47/20/205401

Hernandez, V.H., Gehrt, A., Reuter, K., Jing, Z., Jeschke, M., Mendoza Schulz, A., Hoch, G., Bartels, M., Vogt, G., Garnham, C.W., et al. (2014). Optogenetic stimulation of the auditory pathway. J. Clin. Invest. 124, 1114–1129. http://www.jci.org/articles/view/69050

Hernandez VH, Gehrt A, Jing Z, Hoch G, Jeschke M, Strenzke N, Moser T. Optogenetic stimulation of the auditory nerve. J Vis Exp. 2014 Oct 8;(92):e52069. doi: 10.3791/52069. PMID: 25350571  

Jeschke M, Moser T. Considering optogenetic stimulation for cochlear implants. Hear Res. 2015 Apr;322:224-234. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2015.01.005. Epub 2015 Jan 16. Review. PMID: 25601298 

Moser T. Optogenetic stimulation of the auditory pathway for research and future prosthetics. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2015 Jan 28;34C:29-36. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2015.01.004. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PMID: 25637880

Moser T, Vogl C. New insights into cochlear sound encoding [version 1; referees: 2 approved]. F1000Research 2016, 5(F1000 Faculty Rev):2081 (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.8924.1

Contact

Prof. Dr. Tobias Moser Head of Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-321 Contact Profile

Khaled Abellatif Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-205 Contact

Burak Bali Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-244 Contact

Alexander Dieter Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-244 Contact

Daniela Gerke Technical Assistant +49 551 3851-244 Contact

Dr. Tamas Harczos Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-205 Contact

Nadine Herrmann Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-210 Contact

Gerhard Hoch Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-244 Contact

Antoine Huet Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-244 Contact

Lukasz Jablonski Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-210 Contact Profile

Dr. Marcus Jeschke Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-208 Contact Profile

Andrea Koch Technical Assistant +49 551 3851-244 Contact

David Lopez de la Morena Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-244 Contact

Dr. Vladan Rankovic Auditory Neuroscience Group and University Medical Center +49 551 3851-208 Contact