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Research and Clinical Trials
The experts in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery have dedicated themselves to advancing their field through thoughtful and groundbreaking research. Each of our eight research groups works diligently to constantly learn more about their topic and educated the medical community about their findings.
The following clinical trials are currently being offered by the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
Has hearing research gone batty?
Hearing researcher Amanda Lauer – whose work is supported through the David M. Rubenstein Hearing Center – explains how she uses electron microscopy to examine synaptic and nanoscale structures. She collaborates with the Comparative Neural Systems and Behavior Laboratory, aka the Bat Lab, run by Krieger's Cynthia Moss, because bats are hearing specialists, using echolocation to survive.
Our research is directed toward how the brain controls the movements of the eyes (including eye movements induced by head motion) using studies in normal human beings, patients and experimental animals. The focus is on mechanisms underlying adaptive ocular motor control. More specifically, what are mechanisms by which the brain learns to cope with the changes associated with normal development and aging as well as the damage associated with disease and trauma? How does the brain keep its eye movement reflexes properly calibrated? Our research strategy is to make accurate, quantitative measures of eye movements in response to precisely controlled stimuli and then use the analytical techniques of the control systems engineer to interpret the findings.
Research areas: 1) learning and compensation for vestibular disturbances that occur either within the labyrinth or more centrally within the brain, 2) the mechanisms by which the brain maintains correct alignment of the eyes to prevent diplopia and strabismus, and 3) the role of ocular proprioception in localizing objects in space for accurate eye-hand coordination.
The Systems neurobiology Laboratory is a group of laboratories that all study various aspects of neurobiology. These laboratories include: (1) computational neurobiology Laboratory: The goal of their research is to build bridges between brain levels from the biophysical properties of synapses to the function of neural systems. (2) computational Principles of Natural Sensory Processing: Research in this lab focuses on the computational principles of how the brain processes information. (3) Laboratory for Cognitive neuroscience: This laboratory studies the neural and genetic underpinnings of language and cognition. (4) Sloan-Swartz Center for Theoretical neurobiology: The goal of this laboratory is develop a theoretical infrastructure for modern experimental neurobiology. (5) Organization and development of visual cortex: This laboratory is studying the organization and function of neural circuits in the visual cortex to understand how specific neural components enable visual perception and to elucidate the basic neural mechanisms that underlie cortical function. (6) Neural mechanism of selective visual attention: This laboratory studies the neural mechanisms of selective visual attention at the level of the individual neuron and cortical circuit, and relates these findings to perception and conscious awareness. (7) Neural basis of vision: This laboratory studies how sensory signals in the brain become integrated to form neuronal representation of the objects that people see.
Research in the Vestibular NeuroEngineering Lab (VNEL) focuses on restoring inner ear function through “bionic” electrical stimulation, inner ear gene therapy, and enhancing the central nervous system’s ability to learn ways to use sensory input from a damaged inner ear. VNEL research involves basic and applied neurophysiology, biomedical engineering, clinical investigation and population-based epidemiologic studies. We employ techniques including single-unit electrophysiologic recording; histologic examination; 3-D video-oculography and magnetic scleral search coil measurements of eye movements; microCT; micro MRI; and finite element analysis. Our research subjects include computer models, circuits, animals and humans. For more information about VNEL, click here.
VNEL is currently recruiting subjects for two first-in-human clinical trials:
1) The MVI Multichannel Vestibular Implant Trial involves implantation of a “bionic” inner ear stimulator intended to partially restore sensation of head movement. Without that sensation, the brain’s image- and posture-stabilizing reflexes fail, so affected individuals suffer difficulty with blurry vision, unsteady walking, chronic dizziness, mental fogginess and a high risk of falling. Based on designs developed and tested successfully in animals over the past the past 15 years at VNEL, the system used in this trial is very similar to a cochlear implant (in fact, future versions could include cochlear electrodes for use in patients who also have hearing loss). Instead of a microphone and cochlear electrodes, it uses gyroscopes to sense head movement, and its electrodes are implanted in the vestibular labyrinth. For more information on the MVI trial, click here.
2) The CGF166 Inner Ear Gene Therapy Trial involves inner ear injection of a genetically engineered DNA sequence intended to restore hearing and balance sensation by creating new sensory cells (called “hair cells”). Performed at VNEL with the support of Novartis and through a collaboration with the University of Kansas and Columbia University, this is the world’s first trial of inner ear gene therapy in human subjects. Individuals with severe or profound hearing loss in both ears are invited to participate. For more information on the CGF166 trial, click here.
The mission of the laboratory of vestibular neurophysiology is to advance the understanding of how the body perceives head motion and maintains balance - a complex and vital function of everyday life. Although much is known about the vestibular part of the inner ear, key aspects of how the vestibular receptors perceive, process and report essential information are still mysterious. Increasing our understanding of this process will have tremendous impact on quality of life of patients with vestibular disorders, who often suffer terrible discomfort from dizziness and vertigo.
The laboratory group's basic science research focuses on the vestibulo-ocular reflexes - the reflexes that move the eyes in response to motions of the head. They do this by studying the vestibular sensors and nerve cells that provide input to the reflexes; by studying eye movements in humans and animals with different vestibular disorders, by studying effects of electrical stimulation of vestibular sensors, and by using mathematical models to describe these reflexes. Researchers are particularly interested in abnormalities of the brain's inability to compensate for vestibular disorders.