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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. view less
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 b...y using mathematical models to describe these reflexes. Researchers are particularly interested in abnormalities of the brain's inability to compensate for vestibular disorders.