The bionic ear and brain plasticity
Principal Investigator - Dr James Fallon
Principal Investigator - Prof Robert Shepherd
Principal Investigator - Prof Dexter Irvine
Research Fellow - Dr Andrew Wise
Research Fellow - Dr Sam Irving
Research Fellow - Dr Jin Xu
PhD Candidates - David Perry
Research Assistant - Alison Evans
Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to reorganise itself by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons) via new experiences.
Children as young as four months are now being implanted with a bionic ear. It has been observed that many children implanted with a bionic ear at a young age are able to comprehend speech and communicate almost as well as hearing children.
We are investigating how the use of the bionic ear (and the new "experience" of sound) contributes to brain plasticity - by promoting nerve cell survival and connectivity in the brain. Our goals are to study, using functional, anatomical and behavioural measures:
- the effects of the bionic ear on the developing auditory system for subjects implanted at a young age.
- the response of the auditory system in adults who have become deaf and have been implanted with a bionic ear.
- the effects of long-term bionic ear use on brain plasticity.
To achieve these goals we use a number of sub-disciplines of neurobiology including electrophysiological, behavioural and neuroanatomical / molecular biological techniques.
US National Institutes of Health (HHS-N-263-2007-00053-C)