Auditory Biophysics and Simulation Laboratory

Department of Biomedical Engineering
44 Cummington Mall, Boston, MA 02215
Principal Investigators: David C. Mountain, Allyn E. Hubbard

The long-range goal of the Auditory Biophysics and Simulation Laboratory is to improve understanding of the hearing process through a synergistic combination of engineering and physiological techniques.

We are seeking to identify, quantify, and model the mechanisms responsible for mechanical sensitivity and frequency selectivity of the mammalian cochlea (inner ear). Recent experimental evidence suggests that the outer hair cells of the cochlea act as electromechanical amplifiers that increase hearing sensitivity one-hundred fold. Our efforts are directed toward confirming this hypothesis and clarifying our understanding of the underlying mechanisms.

We are also developing large-scale models of the auditory pathways. The purpose of these models is to aid the interpretation and design of physiological and psychophysical experiments as well as to study auditory models for their usefulness as preprocessors for automated recognition of acoustic signals. Experimental approaches range from single-unit recordings to auditory evoked potentials obtained from the scalp, and modeling approaches range from computational approaches to electronic hardware implementations. This laboratory is also engaged in the study of natural acoustic signal sources and acoustic environments. The purpose of this effort is to develop a better understanding of the evolutionary pressures that have shaped the auditory pathway as well as to develop computer simulations of natural environments for use as input to the auditory models.