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580.625: Structure and Function of the Auditory and Vestibular Pathway

Fall Semester, 2017 (Homewood Academic Schedule)

Course Directors: Elisabeth Glowatzki & Kathleen Cullen


This course will cover basic functions of the auditory and vestibular pathways responsible for perception of sound and balance.

hearing and balance
  • Topics include: hair cell structure and mechanotransduction, hair cell electromotility and cochlear active force production, hair cell synaptic signaling, cochlear development and role of glia in the inner ear, primary auditory and vestibular stimulus encoding, afferents and the first-order brainstem nuclei, as well as clinical consequences of peripheral damage, physiology of hearing loss, vestibular loss, tinnitus, hair cell regeneration and gene therapy. Moving more centrally, synaptic transmission and signal processing in central neurons, and complex sound perception and movement control will be discussed. Aspects such as speech perception, sound localization, vestibular reflexes, vestibular compensation, and self-motion perception are discussed with an integrated perspective covering perceptual, physiological, and mechanistic data.
  • Grades will be based on participation in class, homework, and first-half and second-half exams (both in class, closed book, short answer/essay types)
  • Prereqs: general introduction to Neuroscience.
  • Class size limited to 25.
  • Odd-numbered years

Undergraduates with knowledge in Neuroscience welcome.

Meeting Times:

Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. in 529 Ross Research Bldg. (medical Campus) at the School of Medicine.

For further information contact Elisabeth Glowatzki ( or Kathleen Cullen (  

Course Outline

  1. 8/31/17 Overview of the Auditory and Vestibular Periphery (Elisabeth Glowatzki/ Chenkai Dai)
  2. 9/5/17 Hair Cell Structure and Mechanotransduction (Ulrich Mueller)             
  3. 9/7/17 Cochlear Mechanics, Outer Hair Cell Electromotility and Active Force Production (Alex Spector)
  4. 9/12/17 Inner Ear Afferent Synapses (Juan Goutman/ Paul Fuchs)
  5. 9/14/17 Development of the Inner Ear/Structure and Function of Supporting Cells in the Cochlea (Angelika Doetzlhofer / Dwight Bergles)
  6. 9/19/17 Physiology of Hearing Loss (Amanda Lauer) 
  7. 9/21/17 Auditory stimulus encoding – tuning, representation of simple and complex stimuli, nonlinearities, reverse correlation. Representation of information in spike trains; auditory nerve. (Eric Young)
  8. 9/26/17 Efferent Inhibition of Hair Cells and Efferent Effects on Hearing (Paul Fuchs/ Amanda Lauer)   
  9. 9/28/17 Genetics of Hearing Loss (Ulrich Mueller)
  10. 10/3/17 Hair Cell Regeneration and Gene Therapy (Angelika Doetzlhofer/Wade Chien)
  11. 10/5/17 Anatomy and Physiology of the Ventral Cochlear Nucleus (Brad May)
  12. 10/10/17 Anatomy and Physiology of the Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus (Brad May)
  13. 10/12/17 Tinnitus (Brad May)
  14. 10/17/17 Binaural hearing (Eric Young)
  15. 10/19/17 Anatomy and Physiology of the Inferior Colliculus (Xiaoqin Wang)

    10/24/17 First Mid-term (lectures 1 through 12)
  16. 10/26/17 Anatomy and physiology of auditory thalamus and cortex (Xiaoqin Wang)
  17. 10/31/17 Neural coding of pitch, harmonics, speech and music (Xiaoqin Wang)
  18. 11/02/17 Peripheral Vestibular Physiology/vestibular implant (Charley Della Santina/Gene Fridman)
  19. 11/07/17 Vestibular stimulus encoding – from periphery to central pathways:  
    Response dynamics, nonlinearities, representation of information in spike trains. (Kathy Cullen)
  20. 11/09/17 Central vestibular circuits and Signaling (Sascha du Lac)
  21. 11/16/17 Cerebellum and Plasticity (Sascha du Lac)
  22. 11/28/17 Active sensing - vestibular processing during self-generated motion. How the brain ensures accurate behaviour and stable perception. (Kathy Cullen)
  23. 11/30/17 Higher order of vestibular processing:  Implications for self-motion perceptions (Kathy Cullen)

    THANKSGIVING 11/20/17 – 11/26/17
  24. 12/05/17 Vestibular disorders/Epidemiology of Vestibular Loss (John Carey/Yuri Agrawal)
  25. 12/07/17 Vestibular perception/Epidemiology of Hearing Loss (Amir Kheradmend/Frank Lin)

    12/09/17 – 12/12/17 Reading Period

    10/14/17 Second Mid-term (lectures 13 through 26)

    12/22/17 (Optional paper for extra credit due)

Download the course outline here.