My research area relates mainly to hearing and the cellular mechanisms involved. I am interested in the outer hair cells of the cochlea, and how they amplify the movements within the cochlea induced by sound. This mechanism provides us with our sensitive hearing - without it we'd have to shout! The outer hair cells are controlled from centres in the brain stem, my main research concerns how this cholinergic efferent pathway works, and how it influences the physiology of the outer hair cells.
During development this pathway transiently innervates the inner hair cells and appears to modulate their intrinsic electrical properties, producing different patterns of spiking activity along the cochlea. We are investigating how the efferents alter the cells electrical responses and whether their modulation of inner hair cells differs from that of outer hair cells.
My main collaborators are Helen Kennedy (Bristol), Robert Fettiplace (Madison) and David Furness (Keele). I also collaborate with Divya Chari’s group here at Keele, looking at how different cell culture techniques affect neuronal physiology and whether electrical stimulation can improve neurite outgrowth in collagen hydrogels.