The Kresge Hearing Research Institute was established by the Regents of the University of Michigan in 1960 to investigate basic questions of hearing and of deafness. The original Kresge Hearing building opened its doors in 1963. Under the directorship of Dr. Merle Lawrence, the staff of 22 persons included a faculty of four Ph.D.'s (Merle Lawrence, Nathan Gross, Joseph Hawkins, and William Stebbins) as well as Walter Work, M.D., Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology and other clinicians. In 1976, the Institute was administratively integrated into the Department of Otolaryngology (Current Chair: Carol R. Bradford, M.D.). The Institute moved from its old building to new quarters in the Medical Sciences complex in 2008 and now houses a staff of approximately 100, divided between the laboratories of 14 faculty and primary research scientists, administration and technical cores. Josef Miller, Ph.D., succeeded Merle Lawrence in 1984, and Jochen Schacht, Ph.D., was appointed as Director in 2000.
Research and Training at KHRI
Our research programs include multi-disciplinary projects in behavior, morphology, physiology, molecular biology and genetics, bioengineering, pharmacology and biochemistry. They are detailed on the web pages of the individual laboratories but a general overview may be helpful here.
The last decade has brought impressive progress in the basic auditory sciences and in the understanding of the pathological processes that affect the hearing and balance functions of the ear. This progress has now paved the way for translating the results of basic biological and genetic research to clinical uses that will result in improved health care and enhanced quality of life for our population. Like the basic research leading to it, successful translation from laboratory to clinic requires state-of-the-art interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists and physicians. KHRI attempts to provide the resources and environment both for basic research and for spanning the gap between fundamental research and clinical application.
Genetics of Hearing and Deafness
In recent years, progress in understanding the genetics of deafness, both at KHRI and worldwide, has been extraordinary. The first deafness gene in humans was mapped in 1992. Currently, 58 genes have been mapped; 16 have been identified. The first successful reversal of genetic deafness in experimental animals by gene therapy was reported in 1998 at the University of Michigan.
Faculty members collaborating in this research program come from the departments of Otolaryngology, Anatomy & Cell Biology, Human Genetics, and from the Mental Health Research Institute. The programs at KHRI and the Department of Otolaryngology include:
- Human genetics (Dr. Marci Lesperance)
- Mouse genetics (Dr. David Kohrman)
- Development and regeneration (Dr. Yehoash Raphael)
- Auditory function (Dr. David Dolan)
- Auditory anatomy and pathology (Drs. Richard Altschuler and Yehoash Raphael)
Mechanisms of Auditory Processing
Despite major recent advances in the understanding of basic pathways, we lack a theoretical basis for a detailed understanding of auditory processing of complex sounds such as communication signals, both at the level of the peripheral end organ and within the central auditory system. We are addressing this problem with the tools of physiology, psychophysics, electrical engineering, computer sciences, imaging, morphology, cell biology, and molecular biology.
Faculty members collaborating in this program come from the departments of Otolaryngology, Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences and other departments in the Medical School and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. The programs at KHRI and the Department of Otolaryngology include:
- Spatial hearing (Dr. Susan Shore)
- Functional imaging (Dr. Bryan Pfingst)
- Complex signals (Dr. Susan Shore)
- Efferent mechanisms (Drs.Richard Altschuler and Susan Shore)
- Transmitters, receptors, ion channels, and pathways (Drs. Richard Altschuler, Keith Duncan, Jochen Schacht, and Susan Shore)
- Psychophysics and speech perception (Drs. Bryan Pfingst and Terry Zwolan)
Protection from acquired hearing loss is a major concern of modern societies where noise and ototoxic medications are the major causes of preventable deafness. In addition, an often debilitating accompaniment of hearing loss is tinnitus, the "ringing in the ears" that affects approximately 13% of the population. Unfortunately, clinical interventions to limit or reverse hearing loss essentially do not yet exist and no truly effective treatment for tinnitus is available. Our research program includes molecular and cell biology, genetics, morphology, physiology.
Faculty members collaborating in this program come from the departments of Otolaryngology and Human Genetics. The programs at KHRI and the Department of Otolaryngology include work in the areas of stress responses (Richard Altschuler, David Dolan, Jochen Schacht), autoimmune disease (Alexander Arts, Thomas Carey, Hussam El-Kashlan, Steven Telian), cell death (Carol Bradford, Thomas Carey, Yehoash Raphael), therapeutic prevention (Josef Miller, Jochen Schacht), protection and repair mechanisms (Richard Altschuler, David Dolan, Keith Duncan, Josef Miller, Yehoash Raphael, Jochen Schacht), central nervous system plasticity (Richard Altschuler, Hussam El-Kashlan, Susan Shore), tinnitus (Richard Altschuler, Susan Shore, Hussam El-Kashlan), regeneration and regrowth (Richard Altschuler, Keith Duncan, Josef Miller, Yehoash Raphael), gene transfer (David Kohrman, Yehoash Raphael) and functional assessment (David Dolan, Keith Duncan, Bryan Pfingst).
Cochlear Prosthesis and Tissue Bioengineering
New biotechnologies must be developed to introduce interpretable signals into deafened auditory pathways. The tissue engineering program at KHRI includes physiology, psychophysics, electrical engineering, morphology, material sciences, genetics, cell biology, molecular biology.
Faculty members collaborating in this program come from the departments of Otolaryngology, Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences, Materials Sciences, Human Genetics and Nuclear Medicine. The programs at KHRI and the Department of Otolaryngology include work in the areas of plasticity (Richard Altschuler, Josef Miller, Susan Shore), and gene transfer (David Kohrman, Yehoash Raphael), and the development of auditory prostheses (Alexander Arts, Hussam El-Kaslan, Paul Kileny, Josef Miller, Bryan Pfingst, Steven Telian, Terry Zwolan) and neuroprobes (Richard Altschuler, Susan Shore).
Research and didactic training for undergraduates, graduate students, medical students, postdoctoral trainees, fellows and visiting scientists has been a primary mission of KHRI since its inception. Our faculty is extensively involved in training undergraduate and graduate students through teaching appointments in several basic science departments, in the Medical School, the Rackham School of Graduate Studies and in the College of Literature, Science and Arts.
KHRI is also the nucleus of a unique training program in sensory sciences, the Hearing and Chemical Senses program. It was originally conceived as a graduate program in basic hearing sciences. As a consequence of the growing interaction among the members of the sensory research community at the University of Michigan, the program was expanded in 1986 to include scientists studying the chemical senses. KHRI also participates in all University of Michigan-sponsored teaching initiatives (UROP, King/Chavez/Parks, etc) and hosts its own outreach program for deaf and hearing-impaired undergraduate students.
Thanks to its international connections, KHRI has long been home to fellows and visiting scientist from all corners of the world. A separate training grant in the Department of Otolaryngology complements these efforts and provides for the clinical and basic science education of residents and fellows in the Department of Otolaryngology.
If you have questions, you can reach us at one of the email addresses shown on the contacts page or at our mailing address.