Hearing loss is the most common congenital sensory impairment. Over half of all cases of congenital hearing loss are thought to be inherited, and by far the most prevalent gene affected worldwide is Connexin 26, which accounts for nearly 20% of all cases of congenital hearing loss in almost every major population in the world. Connexin 26 encodes for a gap junction, which provides electrical, ionic, and biochemical coupling between supporting cells of the organ of Corti, which is the sensory structure within the cochlea of the inner ear.
The Otolaryngology Department enjoys a rich history in hearing research that began with the establishment of the Coleman Laboratory in 1921. The family of John C. and Edward Coleman, Cornish immigrants whose fortune was initially established in the California gold fields, was plagued by progressive, hereditary deafness.
The Limb Lab at UCSF is devoted to exploring music perception and complex sound processing in cochlear implant users as well as the neural substrates of musical creativity.
The Saul and Ida Epstein Laboratory for Auditory Physiology and Genetics was established by generous gifts from Saul and Ida Epstein in 1976. Since that time continuing gifts from the Epsteins as well as grant and contract funding from the National Institutes of Health, Hearing Research Incorporated, Deafness Research Foundation and several other donors have supported a wide range of basic hearing projects.
We seek to understand the neural substrate of speech motor control and the role of sensory feedback in this process. We currently have projects using computational modeling, psychophysical investigations, and functional neuroimaging that examine auditory feedback’s role in the learning and maintenance of speech, as well as the online control of speech.