Ph.D., Duke University
Functional Anatomy of the Auditory Pathways
We study brain circuits used to analyze sounds. The brain processes auditory information in ascending circuits that extend from the ear to the cerebral cortex, where sound is perceived. Descending pathways allow higher centers (e.g., cortex) to modify neural processing in the lower centers. This modification is important for many functions, such as selective attention and discrimination of sounds in a noisy environment.
Our primary subject is the guinea pig, a small mammal with well-developed hearing and well-differentiated auditory circuits. We use a variety of anatomical tracers to label specific neural pathways. We then examine these pathways in the light and electron microscopes to identify the cell types and their interconnections. We also combine these methods with immunohistochemical techniques to identify the neurotransmitters used by different circuit components.