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Accurate spatial hearing has clear survival value, by indicating, for example, the approach of a vehicle when crossing the street. It also plays an important role in “cocktail party listening”, where the challenge is to pick out a particular voice in a crowd. This ability relies principally on the detection of differences in the timing and intensity of sound between the two ears, and is therefore impaired in the many cases where hearing loss affects one ear more than the other. The auditory neuroscience group in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at the University of Oxford has shown that the brain can be trained to compensate for a temporary hearing loss produced by plugging one ear. This learning takes place over a matter of days and involves adaptive changes in the processing of different spatial cues.

This 3 year PhD project, which is funded by Action on Hearing Loss and the Wellcome Trust, will investigate the neural basis by which the brain is able to adapt to asymmetric hearing loss and extend this work to more natural listening conditions than those typically used in the laboratory. In addition to revealing how what we hear shapes the brain, this study should highlight improved strategies for treating people with hearing loss that affects one ear more than the other.

The project will provide training in the use of behavioural methods, in vivo electrophysiological recordings and optogenetic approaches for investigating the neural circuitry involved.

Candidates must have the equivalent of a first or upper-second class degree in neuroscience, biomedical science, psychology, preclinical medicine, audiology, bioengineering or a closely related field. The funding for this studentship, which starts on 1 October 2019, provides a stipend for 3 years and covers fees at the UK/EU rate.

To apply, please send a covering letter (detailing why you are interested and a suitable candidate for this PhD project), a CV, and the names of 3 referees to Professor Andrew King to whom informal inquiries can be directed.

The position is open until filled, but the deadline for the initial assessment of candidates is Friday 22nd February 2019, with interviews taking place at the end of February.

 

 

Relevant publications

Bajo VM, Nodal FR, Moore DR and King AJ (2010). The descending corticocollicular pathway mediates learning-induced auditory plasticity. Nature Neuroscience 13: 253-260.

Keating P, Dahmen JC and King AJ (2013) Context-specific reweighting of auditory spatial cues following altered experience during development. Current Biology 23: 1291-1299.

Keating P, Dahmen JC and King AJ (2015) Complementary adaptive processes contribute to the developmental plasticity of spatial hearing. Nature Neuroscience 18: 185-187.

Keating P, Rosenior-Patten O, Dahmen JC, Bell O and King AJ (2016) Behavioral training promotes multiple adaptive processes following acute hearing loss. eLife 5: e12264.

Kumpik DP and King AJ (2019) A review of the effects of unilateral hearing loss on spatial hearing. Hearing Research 372:17-28.

 

For more information, please see the FindAPhD Listing here.