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Kresge Hearing Research Institute

Department of Otolaryngology

Aerial view of KHRI

Faculty

Retired or Emerita/Emeritus

Faculty

Picture of Dr. Pfingst

Dr. Bryan E. Pfingst

Director, Auditory Prosthesis Perception and Psychophysics Laboratories
E-mail:
Phone: (734) 763-2292
Fax: (734) 764-0014

Accomplishments

Hobbies

Research Projects

The goal of our research is to understand and improve perception with cochlear implants. These implants are designed to functionally replace the deaf inner ear through patterned electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve. They provide hearing to severely or profoundly deaf people who receive little or no benefit from conventional hearing aids. The objective of our research is to better understand how the auditory nervous system responds to electrical stimulation and thus to identify ways to improve the function of these auditory prostheses. Our research is done in human and animal subjects. Human subjects are selected from the population of deaf adults in the Ann Arbor area who are using cochlear implants and who volunteer to serve as subjects for hearing tests using various experimental configurations of the prosthesis. Studies are also done using people with normal hearing listening to acoustic simulations of auditory prostheses. Animal subjects (guinea pigs) are trained using positive reinforcement operant conditioning techniques to perform tasks that are used to measure their hearing with acoustic or electrical stimulation. We then determine how various parameters of electrical stimulation affect their hearing. Guinea pigs are also used to study the functional effects of postdeafening treatments of the ear that are intended to improve nerve survival patterns and increase the effectiveness of cochlear implants. Recordings from neurons in the auditory pathway in the guinea pigs, made in collaboration with the neurophysiology laboratories of Drs. Bledsoe and Middlebrooks, are used to better understand the neural codes that carry information about the electrical signal and to guide the design of better stimulation strategies.