The associate professor of neurobiology explains it was the group’s depth of experience in auditory neuroscience and collaborative nature that led him to NEOMED.
Discovering his passion
Originally from Texas, Dr. Winters’ love of the outdoors and nature evolved into an interest in how living things make their way in the world and have evolved over time. Now he spends his time researching the auditory system.
“I find the auditory system particularly fascinating, because unlike the retina in the visual system, our peripheral auditory senses have no intrinsic representation of space, so sound location is a computational problem solved by the brain,” says Dr. Winters, who earned a Ph.D. at Washington State University, located in Pullman, Washington.
Dr. Winters is working to better understand a group of brainstem circuits that compare information from the two ears called the superior olivary complex — which are involved in sound localization.
Dr. Winters explains how difficult it can be for people with hearing loss to localize sound and understand human speech in complicated environments, such as a noisy room or hallway because they cannot filter out sounds coming from other sources. He’d like to see his research inform ways to make it easier for people to navigate these challenging situations.
“My work is very basic research, so I work at the ground floor of trying to figure out how these systems work. My philosophy is that, if we don’t know how it works, we can’t fix it,” shares Dr. Winters.
Dr. Winters’ research, understanding the functional roles of the cellular components of sound localization circuits and how they are sculpted by sound-driven activity during development is a crucial step in better understanding the sound localization system.
Soon, Dr. Winters will have the chance to bring things full circle, by sharing his same interests with College of Medicine and College of Graduate Studies students while teaching medical neuroscience, as well as cellular and molecular neurobiology courses.