BETHLEHEM, PA, March 17, 2009 -- Lehigh University assistant professor of neuroscience Michael Burger has been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for his research entitled "Efferent Inhibitory Mechanisms in Binaural Processing." The five-year grant will allow Burger to build upon the preliminary data he first collected under a grant he received from the Deafness Research Foundation for his work on "Efferent Function in Sound Localization Processing."
"I'm very excited about this grant because it provides the funds to ensure the long-term viability of my lab and gives me the resources I need to attack my research agenda," says Burger. "It's very validating to have people in my field appreciate my work and my approach to auditory neuroscience."
Burger is interested in how the auditory system processes sound information. The ear and the brain work in tandem to determine the location of sound, relying on a specialized neural circuit in the brain devoted to the process. The brain is able to compute where sound comes from by determining when a sound wave strikes each ear. Auditory neurons can detect the tiny microsecond differences in arrival time of a sound between the two ears. This system also has to function over a wide range of sound intensities, making this computation particularly challenging.
"I am extremely impressed with the way Mike investigates fundamental cell-to-cell processes in deciphering how the brain detects the location of sounds," says Murray Itzkowitz, professor and chair of Lehigh's biological sciences department. "While the hearing health implications of his research are clear, I see his program as providing a model to explore many complex aspects of brain function and that too explains why the NIH is so interested in his program."
The research centers on the question of how cellular, synaptic, and sys
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