We study synaptic inputs and outputs of brainstem olivocochlear efferent neurons that project to the cochlea using mouse models. Projects in the lab use the techniques of whole cell patch clamp recordings from auditory neuron somata and dendrites, combined with optogenetics and imaging of neuronal activity. Using these tools we dissect the synaptic inputs to the olivocochlear efferents in the brainstem, to determine how they are activated and modulated. Projects in lab also examine how the activity of the efferent neurons changes after noise trauma, or during disease. Parallel experimentation investigates the complex outputs of olivocochlear efferent neurons in the cochlea, using dendritic recording techniques from spiral ganglion afferent neurons and hair cells, paired with imaging techniques. The in-depth investigation of synaptic circuitry of olivocochlear efferent neurons will give insight into roles that the neurons play in both the healthy and diseased cochlea, and will be used to provide targets for therapeutic manipulation of the efferent system.

catherine.weisz [at] nih.gov