Our brain’s sensory circuity continuously samples the environment around us. While each sensory system only detects and encodes a limited representation of our surroundings, they have evolved to process and extract the most salient features from this information. This processing is accomplished by microcircuitry throughout the central nervous system, whose functions depend on the convergence of ascending and descending neural pathways. Collectively, the computations performed by this circuitry form the basis of how we perceive and engage with the world.
As the peripheral organ of hearing, the cochlea is responsible for dynamically transducing sound information into bioelectrical signals. Remarkably, the cochlea itself is the first instance of pathway convergence in the auditory system as it receives direct innervation from brainstem efferent neurons which influence its output. These auditory efferents have been broadly classified into two groups, medial and lateral olivocochlear neurons and there is evidence of further heterogeneity among them, suggesting they perform a multitude of unidentified functions in the cochlea.
I aim to elucidate gaps in our knowledge regarding peripheral and central auditory circuits using molecular genetics, viral, and systems level approaches—with an overall goal of determining how cochlear microcircuitry is influenced by descending commands.
What superpower do you wish you had?
To remember everything after hearing or seeing it only once. I would possibly be called “The Fantastic Remember-Man” or “The Steel-Trap”.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Rose City Riot from Salt and Straw (Portland, OR). “Rose ice cream, ribbons of saffron cream, and fresh-roasted pistachios swirled together in sweet harmony”.