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Faculty, Biological Sciences, Lehigh University

R. Michael Burger, Ph.D.

R. Michael Burger, Ph.D.

Research Interest:

Iacocca Hall
111 Research Drive, D220
Bethlehem, PA 18015


email Dr. Burger


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I am interested in how the brain processes information about its sensory environment. The auditory system can process sound information with amazing precision. For example, auditory neurons can detect the tiny microsecond differences in arrival time of a sound between the two ears, a property that is related to a sound's location. The processing of acoustic cues is critical for all animals in a wide range of behaviors including predator-prey interactions and social communication. An elegant and elaborate neural circuitry has evolved in species across the animal kingdom to process this information.

R. Michael Burger, Ph.D.My research centers on the question of how cellular, synaptic, and systems level properties are integrated to allow sensory neurons to extract and represent features of the acoustic environment. The vertebrate auditory system is composed of a rich network of brain regions that process sound signals over interconnected neural pathways. In general, each brain center is devoted to the computation of specific properties of sounds and these properties are encoded by virtue of the synaptic connections and intrinsic properties of neurons in the network.

My specific interest has been the contributions made by inhibition in neural circuits that compute the location of sound stimuli. In both birds and mammals, a striking neural circuitry exists in the brainstem that is devoted to this process. One goal of the lab is to use a comparative approach to evaluate how these two systems have evolved to solve the common problem of locating sound sources.

Students in my lab will learn to utilize a diverse array of techniques to explore the anatomical and electrical properties of neurons and their circuits. The long-term goal of the lab is to gain a holistic and mechanistic picture of this complex sensory network. If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to contact me.



Inhibitory Function in Auditory Processing. Eds. Burger. R.M., Kopp-Scheinpflug, C., Forsythe, I.D. 2015 EBook. Frontiers Media SA. ISBN 978-2-88919-667-8

Book Chapters:

Wang, Y., Sanchez, J.T., Lu, Y., Burger, R.M., and Rubel, E.W. (in press) Nucleus Laminaris. In: Handbook of Brain Microcircuits, 2nd Ed. Shepard, G. and Grillner, S. (Eds.), Oxford University Press. New York.

Burger, R.M. (in press) Development and Function of Inhibitory Circuitry in the Avian Auditory Brainstem. In: Springer Handbook of Auditory Research (Vol. 58): Auditory Development and Plasticity, in honor of Edwin W. Rubel. Eds. Cramer, K.S., Coffin, A., Fay, R.R., and Popper, A.N. Springer International Publishing, Switzerland. ISBN: 978-3-319-21530-3.

Coleman, W.L. and Burger, R. M. Extracellular Recording and Neuropharmacological Methods. In: Basic Methods in Electrophysiology. Eds. Covey, E. and Carter, M. Oxford University Press. March 2015. ISBN: 9780199939800

Adobe ReaderBurger, R. M. and Rubel, E. W. Encoding of interaural timing for sound localization. The Senses: a Comprehensive Reference, Audition.  Eds. Hoy, R., Dallos, P., and Oertel, D., Elsevier Inc., 2008.

Journal Papers:

Beebe*, N.L., Zhang*, C., Burger, R.M., Schofield, B.R. (2021) Multiple Sources of Cholinergic Input to the Superior Olivary Complex. Frontiers in Neural Circuits
*equal contribution

Zhang, Chao, Beebe, N.L., Schofield, B.R., Pecka, M. and Burger, R.M. (2021) Endogenous Cholinergic Signaling Modulates Sound-evoked Responses of Medial Nucleus of Trapezoid Body. The Journal of Neuroscience. DOI:

Weimann, S.R., Black, A., Leese, J., Richter, M.L., Itzkowitz, M., and Burger, R.M. (2017) Territorial Vocalization in Sympatric Damselfish: Acoustic Characteristics and Intruder Discrimination. Bioacoustics.

Fischl*, M. J., Burger* R.M., Schmidt-Pauli, M., Alexandrova, O., Sinclair, J.L., Grothe, B., Forsythe, I., Kopp-Scheinpflug, C. (2016) Physiology and Anatomy of Neurons in the Medial Superior Olive (MSO) of the Mouse. The Journal of Neurophysiology Sep 21:jn.00523.2016. doi: 10.1152/jn.00523.2016 EPub ahead of Print
*equal contribution

Oline, S.N., Ashida, G., and Burger, R.M. (2016) Tonotopic optimization for temporal processing in the cochlear nucleus. The Journal of Neuroscience. 36(32):8500-8515.

Burger RM, Forsythe ID and Kopp-Scheinpflug C (2015) Editorial: Inhibitory function in auditory processing. Front. Neural Circuits 9:45. Editorial. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2015.00045

Activity-dependent modulation of inhibitory synaptic kinetics in the cochlear nucleus. (2014) Nerlich J, Keine C, Rübsamen R, Burger RM, Milenkovic I. Front Neural Circuits. 2014 Dec 23;8:145. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2014.00145. eCollection 2014. PMC4274880

Fischl, M.J. and Burger, R.M. (2014) Glycinergic transmission modulates GABAergic inhibition in the avian auditory pathway. Frontiers in Neural Circuits Mar 14; 8:19 doi:10.3389/fncir.2014.00019 PMCID: PMC3954080

Fischl, M.J., Weimann, S.R., Kearse, M., and Burger, R. M. (2014) Slowly emerging glycinergic transmission enhances inhibition in the sound localization pathway of the avian auditory system. The Journal of Neurophysiology 111(3):565-72 doi: 10.1152/jn.00640.2013 PMCID: In process.

Oline, S.N. and Burger, R.M. (2014) Short-term synaptic depression is topographically distributed in the cochlear nucleus of the chicken. The Journal of Neuroscience. 34(4):1314-24doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3073-13.2014.

Burger, R.M. (2012) Inhibitory synaptic release properties are topographically distributed in auditory circuitry. Journal of Physiology: London, 590 (16): 3639-3640 Review. PMCID in process

Fischl, M.J., Combs, T.D.,Klug, A.K., Grothe, B., and Burger, R.M. (2012) Modulation of synaptic input by GABAB receptors improves coincidence detection for computation of sound location. Journal of Physiology:London, 590(13):3047-66 PMCID in process

Gerhart, S.V., Eble, E.M., Burger, R.M., Oline, S.N., Vacaru, A., Edepli, K.S., Jefferis, R., Iovine, M.K., (2012) Differential subcellular localization of Cx40.8 is determined by a small domain within its carboxy terminus. Plos One, 7(2):e31364 PMCID: PMC3275562

Tabor, K., Coleman, W.L., Rubel, E.W., and Burger, R.M. (2012) Tonotopic organization of the superior olivary nucleus in the chicken (Gallus gallus). The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 520: 1493-1508. PMCID in process

Burger, R.M., Fukui, I., Ohmori, H., and Rubel, E.W. Inhibition in the balance: binaurally coupled inhibitory feedback in sound localization circuitry. The Journal of Neurophysiology. 106(1):4-14. 2011. (link to free PDF at the journal website)

Coleman, W.L., Fischl, M.J., Weimann, S.R., and Burger, R.M. (2011) GABAergic and glycinergic inhibition modulate monaural auditory response properties in the avian superior olivary nucleus. The Journal of Neurophysiology. 105(5): 2045-20. 2011.

Adobe ReaderFukui, I., Burger, R.M., Ohmori, H., and Rubel, E.W., (2010) GABAergic inhibition of superior olivary nucleus sharpens the frequency tuning in magnocellular nucleus of chicken. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30: 12075 - 12083

Requires Adobe Reader Howard, M.A., Burger, R.M., and Rubel, EW., A developmental switch from GABAergic excitation to inhibition controlled by K+ conductances. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(8):2112-2123, 2007.

Adobe ReaderBurger, R.M., Pfeiffer, J.D., Westrum, L.E., Bernard, A., and Rubel, E.W, Expression of GABA B receptor in the avian auditory brainstem: ontogeny, afferent deprivation, and ultrastructure. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 489:11-22, 2005.

Lu, Y., Burger, R.M., and Rubel, E.W. GABA B Receptor Activation Modulates GABA A Receptor-mediated Inhibition in Chicken Nucleus Magnocellularis Neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology, 93:1425-38, 2005

Adobe ReaderBurger, R.M., Cramer, K.S., Pfeiffer, J.D., and Rubel, E.W, The avian superior olivary nucleus provides divergent inhibitory input to parallel auditory pathways. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 481(1): 6-18. 2005.

Adobe ReaderPollak G.D., Burger, R.M., Klug A. Dissecting the circuitry of the auditory system. Trends in Neurosciences. 26(1): 33-9. 2003.

Pollak G.D., Burger, R.M., Park T.J., Klug A., Bauer E.E. Roles of inhibition for transforming binaural properties in the brainstem auditory system. Hearing Research. 168(1-2): 60-78. 2002.

Adobe ReaderBurger, R.M. and Pollak, G. D. Reversible inactivation of the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus reveals its role for processing multiple sound sources in the inferior colliculus. Journal of Neuroscience. 21(13): 4830-4843. 2001.

Klug, A.K., Khan, A., Burger, R.M., Bauer, E.E., Hurley, L.M., Yang, L., Grothe, B., Halvorsen, M.B., and Park T.J. Latency as a function of intensity in auditory neurons: transformations along the neuraxis. Hearing Research, 148:107-123. 2000.

Burger, R.M. and Pollak, G.D. Analysis of the role of inhibition in shaping responses to sinusiodally amplitude-modulated signals in the inferior colliculus. Journal of Neurophysiology 80: 1686-1701. 1998.

Biological Sciences
111 Research Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Phone: 610-758-3680
Fax: 610-758-4004