Along with our partner, the Hearing Health Foundation, we are excited to announce our Emerging Research Grant for 2019. This grant demonstrates our commitment to uncover the mechanisms associated with hyperacusis on our path to a cure. We are extremely grateful for our donor support which makes this grant possible. The grant goes to David Martinelli, PhD, from the University of Connecticut Health Center who will be working to create and validate a genetically induced animal model for hyperacusis.
Pictured at top: Bryan Pollard and David Martinelli at the University of Connecticut Health Center
While the presence of outer hair cell afferent neurons is known, it is not known what information the outer hair cells communicate to the brain through these afferents. This project’s hypothesis is that the function of these mysterious afferents is to communicate to the brain when sounds are intense enough to be painful and/or damaging, and that this circuitry is distinct from the cochlea-to-brain circuitry that provides general hearing. The hypothesis will be tested using a novel animal model in which a certain protein that is essential for the proposed “pain” circuit is missing. The absence of this protein is predicted to cause a lessening of the perception of auditory pain when high intensity sounds are presented. If true, this research has implications for those suffering from hyperacusis.
Long-term goal: To take advantage of the molecular mechanisms of the outer hair cell afferents and develop methods to dampen the perception of auditory pain, providing relief to those with hyperacusis without affecting traditional hearing.