Lehigh University
R. Michael Burger, Ph.D., Lehigh University


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.

Cool synapse!
Here you see a very large “endbulb” synapse in the auditory pathway of the chicken. The auditory nerve (red) contacts its target cell in the brain (green) with a large surface area to ensure secure transmission at this synapse.

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.





Burger C.V.


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