McGill Cochlear Implant Research Program

Program Director: Dr. Anthony Zeitouni, MD

Program Lead Researcher: Alexandre Lehmann, PhD

Lay Abstract:

Cochlear implants can restore audition in deaf individuals; however, successful use of the implant varies widely among individuals.  Recovery of function is limited and the responsible mechanisms are unknown.  A better understanding of the factors that limit outcomes is critical to maximizing functional recovery and improving rehabilitation strategies.

McGill's CI research program combines clinical and basic hearing research to accomplish three specific objectives:  (1) to characterize the brain mechanisms associated with hearing loss and hearing restoration throughout the lifespan; (2) to identify individual factors that impact adaptation and can predict specific outcomes; (3) to develop new strategies that boost the brain's capacity to adapt and improve outcomes.  The ultimate goal is to improve outcomes of implantation and rehabilitation programs and to fully understand the factors that promote or inhibit recovery of function.

Our team combines expertise in Otolaryngology, Audiology, and Cognitive Neuroscience with state-of-the-art brain imaging in order to carry out this innovative research successfully.  A close collaboration between researchers, clinicians, and knowledge users facilitates the translation of research results into new clinical applications.  Significant progress over the past four years demonstrated the feasibility of the program and generated novel knowledge.  Seed funding, keynote invitations to international conferences and peer-reviewed scientific communications demonstrate the recognition of our program's excellence by the scientific and medical communities.

 Research Projects:

  • "Systematic analysis of factors predicting implantation outcomes".  Aim: systematically review the surgical and genetic factors that limit cochlear implantation outcomes.
  • "Neural mechanisms underlying sensory integration in cochlear implant users".  Aim: understand how implant users' brain combine what they see with what they hear, in order to maximize their outcomes.
  • "Brain activity during music perception in cochlear implant patients" (in collaboration with Stanford University).  Aim: assess the capacity of implant users to perceive rhythm and melody and overcome limitations.
  • "Processing of Musical and Vocal Emotions through Cochlear Implants" (GRAMMY funded project).  Aim: understand the brain mechanisms that impede cochlear implant users to understand emotions in voice (i.e happy, angry, sarcastic) and in music.
  • "Linking objective measures to cochlear implant patients; outcomes" (in collaboration with Sao Paulo's Faculty of Medicine Implant Program).  Aim: to connect laboratory measures with real-life difficulties of implantees in order to improve outcomes.
  • Determining the impact of previous visual and auditory sensory experience on the emergence and quality of auditory cortex processing following cochlear implantation (in collaboration with Montreal Neurological Institute).  Aim: to understand how the auditory brain re-organized with hearing loss and subsequent restoration.
  • "Stimulus-specific adaptation from cochlea, to brainstem and cortex" (in collaboration with Salamanca's Neuroscience Institute).  Aim: to contrast animal and human models to understand the effect of hearing loss on the brain.
  • "Objective Measures of cognitive load in cochlear implant patients".  Aim: to measure and reduce the brain fatigue created by using implants.

Collaborating with:

  • Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Rehabilitation, Montreal
  • Institut Raymond Dewar, Montreal
  • MAB Mackay Rehabilitation Center, Montreal
  • Ear Specialist Center, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia
  • Cochlear Implant Group, University of Sao Paolo, Brazil
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