IN THIS ISSUE
1 Giving Voice to Thoughts:
NIDCD-Funded Research Giving Voice to Thoughts:
Helps the Locked-In NIDCD-Funded Research Helps the Locked-In Communicate Again by
Communicate Again by
Turning Thoughts into Turning Thoughts into Words
Words By Robin Latham
AND NEWS A middle-aged woman, paralyzed except for the
3 New NIDCD Research ability to tilt her head and move her eyes, sits in a
Offers Intriguing Clues wheelchair. Extending from the top of her head is
About the Role of Smell a plug, with a cord running from it to a computer
in Food Preference
linked to a monitor. On the monitor screen is a
3 What You Can’t Hear
Won’t Hurt You? Maybe
display of a standard QWERTY keyboard. Silently a
Not cursor moves across the keyboard. Asked how she
4 The First Recipe for likes using this system, she deliberately picks out
Cooking Up Functional the letters E-X-C-I-T-I-N-G. Amazingly, she does
Hair Cells from Stem Cells this just by thinking of her hand controlling
NIDCD HIGHLIGHTS and clicking an imaginary mouse.
4 Noisy Planet Highlighted
in Acoustics Today The device that links the brain of this
4 Noisy Planet on the Road stroke survivor to a computer and
4 NDCD Advisory Council restores her ability to communicate with
Adds Five New Members the world is called BrainGate2, and its
GRANTS NEWS development is the pioneering work
5 NIDCD Grantee Receives of a team of researchers funded by
‘Genius Award’ the National Institute on Deafness BrainGate2 is the brainchild of a group of
and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), neuroscientists and neuroengineers based at
the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Brown University in Providence, R. I. NIDCD grantee
6 MEETINGS OF
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They are Leigh Hochberg, M.D., Ph.D., affiliated with Brown
INTEREST using what’s known as brain-computer interface
7 BEYOND NIDCD: and the VA Medical Center in Providence, and
technology to turn thoughts into words by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard
NEWS FROM OTHER recording signals in the brain that normally direct
ORGANIZATIONS Medical School in Boston, leads the effort to make
movement and then using computer programs to this investigational technology a communication
8 NEW RESOURCES
turn those signals into actions. tool for the locked-in. Without even moving an
eyelid, someone with locked-in syndrome only has
Locked-in syndrome is a state of near-total
to imagine moving his or her hand on a computer
paralysis that happens as a result of injury or brain
mouse to make the cursor move on the computer
degeneration when the link has been broken
between the movement centers of the brain,
including the motor cortex, and the rest of the (continued on page 2)
body. It can happen after brain-stem stroke or
traumatic brain injury and can also be a long-term
consequence of neuromuscular disease, such as
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s
disease). People with locked-in syndrome are
still vibrantly alive in their minds, with the ability
to think and feel. But without movement or
speech, there is currently very little they can do To add your name to
to communicate with the world. our e-mail list, visit
According to Dr. Hochberg, this clinical trial of So, if the signals were still strong and programs
BrainGate2 wouldn’t be possible without NIH’s could be written to decode them, hooking up the
neural prostheses programs, which have been brain to the computer could unlock the locked-in
encouraging for decades the development of and allow them to communicate again.
technology that allows the brain to interact
directly with a computer. The initial preclinical The hardware of BrainGate2 is relatively simple.
studies and the development of the implanted A tiny implanted microarray sensor records the
device that are key to BrainGate2 were developed activity of dozens to a hundred or more neurons
under one of these programs by John Donoghue, in real time and transmits them to a plug attached
Ph.D., also at Brown. But Dr. Hochberg adds to the scalp. These signals travel to a computer,
that BrainGate2 is ultimately the result of the which is programmed to translate them into the
accumulation of knowledge from 40 years of NIH- movement of a cursor on the monitor screen.
and VA-sponsored research into the activities of “The signals are the same signals that would have
the motor cortex, an area at the top of the brain, ordinarily controlled movement of the arm or
“The signals are the which is important in controlling body movement. the hand,” says Dr. Hochberg, “and now they’ve
“We understand a lot about this part of the brain,” been harnessed to control an imagined computer
same signals that says Dr. Hochberg, “and how individual neurons in mouse.”
the motor cortex contribute to the generation of
would have ordinarily voluntary movement.”
Right now the equipment is cumbersome and
the only people who can use it are the pioneering
controlled movement But as much as they knew about how the motor participants who have been enrolled in the study
cortex worked, Dr. Hochberg’s team still had to and, even then, only when someone is there to
of the arm or the hand,” overcome several hurdles to bring their device turn the system on. “It’s about at the same stage
to life. The first was in developing a method to as the first heart pacemaker, when you pushed it
says Dr. Hochberg, “decode” action potentials, brief pulses or firings of along in front of you on a cart,” says Dr. Hochberg.
electrical energy, which the brain uses to transmit But he believes that will change as the device is
“and now they’ve information between and among neurons. refined, miniaturized, and fully implanted in the
Previous work by Dr. Hochberg and others had motor cortex where it can beam information to
been harnessed to looked at patterns of activity in populations of the computer using wireless technology.
neurons in the motor cortex and observed an
control an imagined association between changes in action potential
In the meantime, Dr. Hochberg is grateful for
the continued participation of the small group
firing rates and the speed and motion of actual
computer mouse.” hand movement. Using a mathematical algorithm
of individuals who have donated their time and
effort to help him and his fellow researchers test
and computer software, it became possible to
and refine the device.
translate the neuronal activity of the motor cortex
into clear directional signals. “The pioneering spirit and generosity of our
participants, and their valuable feedback, are
The other challenge was to show that the signals
showing us what this technology needs to
in the motor cortex that generate movement
become,” Dr. Hochberg says. “They’ve enrolled
remain intact, even after the connection between
in this clinical trial not because they’re going
the brain and the muscles is lost. It has been
to directly benefit. They’ve enrolled so they can
common wisdom in neurophysiology circles that
help develop a device that will someday help
the brain operates on a kind of “use it or lose
other people with communication disorders and
it” basis, so that neural circuits that aren’t used
regularly often reorganize or take on a different
purpose. But Dr. Hochberg and his team have To learn more about Dr. Hochberg and his
found familiar patterns and strengths of motor colleagues’ work, visit the BrainGate2 website at
cortex signals in people who have participated in http://www.braingate2.org/.
their study, regardless of how long ago they had
Recent Research and News
New NIDCD Research Offers What You Can’t Hear Won’t Hurt
Intriguing Clues About the Role of You? Maybe Not
Smell in Food Preference Wind turbines, giant propellered contraptions
Scientists have noticed for decades that that turn wind power into electricity, are rapidly
rodents take their dining clues becoming popular as green energy sources in
from their peers, basing their Europe and the United States. This is good for
preferences for different foods the environment, but the rotors and blades of
on the last thing one of their wind turbines generate noise in the infrasound
buddies ate. It’s a behavioral range that some people claim makes them feel
strategy that could be seen dizzy or unable to sleep, among other symptoms.
as a way to stack the deck Infrasound is defined broadly as any sound
against eating harmful or lower than 20 Hertz (Hz), which is the lowest
poisonous foods. Earlier pitch that most people can hear. Many scientists
studies had shown that assume that frequencies too low to be heard
it was the odor of carbon can’t have any effect on the function of the ear.
disulfide (a byproduct of But NIDCD-funded researcher Alec Salt, Ph.D., at
food metabolism) on the Washington University in St. Louis, has observed
breath of the other mouse otherwise. For years, he and his colleagues have
or rat, combined with the used infrasound as a way to slowly displace the
scent of bits of food clinging structures of the inner ear for study in the lab, and
to their fur and whiskers, which they noticed inner ear function being disturbed
acted as a social cue. But no one by frequencies as low as 5 Hz. Salt believes that
Two mice exploring their had been able to explain how the brain outer hair cells, which normally help amplify
lunch option. sound vibrations in the inner ear, actively work to
put the two odors together to signal “okay to eat.”
NIDCD-funded researcher Steven Munger, Ph.D., keep the inner hair cells, which turn sound waves
at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, into electrical signals destined for the brain, from
along with an international team of researchers, being stimulated by lower frequencies. While
used knock-out mice to show that the behavior is the brain may not hear the sound, the responses
the result of a dedicated subsystem of specialized of the outer hair cells could cause unfamiliar
olfactory receptors in the nose and neural sensations in some people. Read more on the
circuits in the brain. This subsystem involves a NIDCD website at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/
small family of olfactory receptors called the news/releases/10/07_28_10.htm. The study is
GC-D+ neurons that send signals to the necklace published in Hearing Research. Read an abstract
glomeruli, specialized clusters of neurons in the of the study in Pub Med at http://www.pubmed.
olfactory bulb that act as a way station for signals gov and search for PMID 20561575.
as they move from the nose to the brain. Unlike
most glomeruli, the necklace glomeruli integrate
multiple sensory inputs, which allow them to pair
the two odors and alert the olfactory brain. The
finding offers clues for humans about how we
learn to associate behavior with odor. Read more
on the NIDCD website at htp://www.nidcd.nih.
gov/news/releases/10/081610.htm. The study
is published in Current Biology. Read an abstract
of the study in Pub Med at http://www.pubmed.
gov and search for PMID 20637621.
The First Recipe it is to extract them from the ear, and these
issues have hindered experimentation. Now,
for Cooking Up thanks to research funded by the NIDCD and
Functional conducted by Stefan Heller, Ph.D., and a group
Hair Cells from of colleagues at Stanford University School of
Medicine, scientists have a way to grow abundant
Stem Cells numbers of functional inner ear hair cells using
Each of our ears harbors embryonic mouse stem cells and a combination
only 15,000 hair cells, the of growth-inducing substances. The findings bring
tiny sensory cells in the the scientists closer to achieving two main goals.
cochlea that turn sound Short range, their goal is to grow large numbers
vibrations into electrical of working hair cells for further research. Long
signals. Once they are range, they hope to use what they discover to
damaged or die, we are restore the ear’s ability to regenerate hair cells.
unable to make new ones. According to lead researcher Heller, “It’s like
Losing them, even only having an ear in a test-tube.” Read more on the
a thousand or so, means NIDCD website at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/
losing hearing ability. news/releases/10/07_02_10.htm. The study is
Scientists have always published in Cell. Read an abstract of the study in
been frustrated by their Pub Med at http://www.pubmed.gov and search
scarcity and how difficult for PMID 20478259.
Hair cells grown from mouse embryonic stem cells display
their characteristic stereocilia.
Credit: S. Heller and K. Oshima
Noisy Planet Highlighted in http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/news/subscribe.htm
to keep informed about the availability of new
Acoustics Today materials and activities.
Acoustics Today, a quarterly publication of the
of America (ASA), is
Noisy Planet on the Road
featuring an article Want your children to know more about how to
about the NIDCD’s protect their hearing? Schools, parent-teacher
Noisy Planet campaign organizations, and faith-based groups in the
in its October 2010 Washington, D.C., metropolitan region can have
issue. It’s a Noisy Planet. Noisy Planet come to them! The 45-minute
Protect Their Hearing presentation, led by NIDCD communication
is a national educational campaign to increase staffers, uses fun, science-based, hands-on
awareness about noise-induced hearing loss activities to show how loud noise affects hearing
(NIHL), which is caused by overexposure to loud and what can be done to prevent noise-induced
noise. The campaign’s primary target audience hearing loss. Contact Robert Miranda-Acevedo at
is the parents of tweens—kids ages 8 to 12. The (301) 496-7243 or email@example.com.
message of Noisy Planet fits in well with the ASA’s
longterm involvement in studies of noise, its NDCD Advisory Council Adds Five
measurement, its effects, and ways of reducing
noise to improve the human environment. To New Members
learn more about the Noisy Planet campaign and The National Deafness and Other Communication
its partner activities, go the Noisy Planet website Disorders (NDCD) Advisory Council welcomed five
at http://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/ new members at its most recent meeting, held in
partner/. Sign up for the Noisy Planet e-bulletin at September. The meeting included a presentation
by NIH Director Francis of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Berke’s scientific work
Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who includes voice disorders, swallowing problems,
highlighted notable NIDCD snoring, deviated or perforated septa, and
research advances and parathyroid and thyroid disease and trauma.
participated in an informal
Q&A session. The council Saumil Merchant, M.D., is the Gudrun Larsen
advises the director of the Eliasen and Nels Kristian Eliasen chair in otology
NIDCD on matters relating and laryngology at Harvard Medical School.
to the Institute’s core Dr. Merchant’s research interests explore
mission areas of hearing, pathology of the middle ear to better understand
balance, smell, taste, voice, sound transmission in normal, diseased, and
speech, and language. The reconstructed tissue.
NIDCD Director Dr. James F. Battey (center) with new
council members (l-r) Drs. Gerald Berke, Lauren Bakaletz, term for council members is
Carolyn Stern, M.D., is a family physician and
Saumil Merchant, and Bevan Yueh. Dr. Carolyn Stern four years.
is not pictured.
partner of DeafDoc.org, a website that explains
Lauren Bakaletz, Ph.D., is health care issues using American Sign Language
a professor in the department of otolaryngology, and captions. She also works as an urgent care
Ohio State University, and vice-president for physician in the Unity Health System and is
basic science research at the Research Institute at medical director at the Rochester School for the
Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio. Deaf.
Dr. Bakaletz’s work involves understanding the
Bevan Yueh, M.D., M.P.H., is a professor and chair
pathogenic mechanisms operating in otitis media,
of the department of otolaryngology/head and
particularly the roles of bacterial adhesives and
neck surgery at the University of Minnesota. Dr.
Yueh’s scientific interests include head and neck
Gerald Berke, M.D., is chief of head and neck surgery, clinical epidemiology, and tumors of the
surgery in the school of medicine at the University head, neck, salivary gland, and thyroid.
NIDCD Grantee Receives ‘Genius The MacArthur Fellowship Program was
established in 1981 to enable recipients to
Award’ exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit
NIDCD grantee Carol Padden, Ph.D., is the recent of human society. “The freedom to pursue novel
recipient of what is popularly known as a “genius” ideas is something I’ve always wanted to do,” says
award from the MacArthur Foundation—a Dr. Padden, “and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
fellowship that comes with a stipend of $500,000.
Dr. Padden is the first deaf individual to receive the
Dr. Padden is a professor of communication at prestigious award, which has been given to 823
the University of California, San Diego, where she individuals since its inception. The award allows
also received her Ph.D. in linguistics. Her research recipients to work on any project that interests
focuses on the unique structure and evolution them, with no requirements for specific products
of sign language. She has most recently focused or reports.
on Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, from
the south of Israel, which was created within a You can learn more about Dr. Padden on her
closed community approximately 75 years ago. website at http://communication.ucsd.edu/
By investigating the structure of this emerging cpadden/.
Dr. Carol Padden, recipient
of a MacArthur Foundation sign language, Dr. Padden and her team will be
“genius” award. able to trace the roots of language evolution as it
develops naturally within a community.
Meetings of Interest
American Public Health Association American Speech-Language-Hearing
(APHA) Association (ASHA)
November 6-10, Denver, Colo. November 18-20, Philadelphia, Pa.
Web info: www.apha.org/meetings Web info: www.asha.org/events/
Learn from experts in the field, hear about cutting-
Leadership into New Frontiers focuses on what
edge research and exceptional best practices,
speech-language-hearing professionals need to
discover the latest public health products and
make a difference in the lives of the people they
services, and share your public health experience
serve. In addition to program sessions, a career fair,
with your peers. APHA’s meeting program
poster sessions, and other activities, the keynote
addresses current and emerging health science,
speaker is Nancy Goodman Brinker, founder of the
policy, and practice issues in an effort to prevent
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Visit
disease and promote health.
the NIDCD booth (1132) in the Exhibit Hall.
Society for Neuroscience (SfN)
Association for Research in
November 13-17, San Diego, Calif.
Web info: www.sfn.org/AM2010 February 19-23, Baltimore, Md.
Web info: http://www.aro.org/mwm/
Through lectures, symposia, workshops, and
events, the SfN annual meeting is the premier The ARO annual midwinter meeting gives
venue for neuroscientists from around the world researchers and otolaryngology professionals
to debut cutting-edge research. Since 1971, the an opportunity to meet and discuss the latest
meeting has offered attendees the opportunity to advances in otolaryngology research. This year
learn about the latest breakthroughs and network will feature symposia, workshops, presentations,
with colleagues throughout North America. Visit special interest group socials, special events, and
the NIDCD booth (4112) in the Exhibit Hall. exhibits. The Presidential Symposium will focus on
genomics and its impact in otolaryngology.
Beyond NIDCD: News from Other
The Deafness Research Foundation (DRF) The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association
recently announced that it has awarded $550,000 presents “Childhood Apraxia of Speech: New
to 22 outstanding research scientists in the field Perspectives for Assessment and Treatment” on
of hearing and balance science, which represents January 21, 2011, at the Thompson Conference
a 16 percent increase in the organization’s grant Center at the University of Texas, Austin. The
making. DRF awards research grants of up to speaker, David W. Hammer, M.A., CCC-SLP, will offer
$25,000 to young investigators to conduct novel a hands-on, practical presentation that focuses on
investigations of auditory and vestibular function strategies for therapists who treat children with
and dysfunction. Research proposals for basic, apraxia of speech. For more information, contact
translational, and applied clinical research in Kathy Bauer, education director for the Childhood
hearing and balance are considered for funding. Apraxia of Speech Association at kathyb@
Applications for the 2011 DRF grant cycle are due apraxia-kids.org or visit the website at http://
on December 8. To be notified of upcoming grants, www.apraxia-kids.org/.
send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hands and Voices is devoted to improving
The Center for Disease Control and support for families with children who are deaf or
Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on hard-of-hearing and the professionals who serve
Immunization Practices (ACIP) has updated them. Resources for parents include:
its recommendations for vaccination to prevent
pneumonoccal disease and ear infections. ACIP A is for Access (DVD) is a guide for families and
recommends that children ages 6 weeks to 5 educators about how to create and implement
years receive the recently approved 13-valent full and effective communication access for
pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV13, in place students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Order
of the currently used 7-valent PCV7. The new online at http://www.handsandvoices.org/pdf/
vaccine is administered in a four-dose series at AAccOrdFrm.pdf.
ages 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months.
The Book of Choice, 3rd Edition, in English and
Children who started their vaccination series Spanish, is an information resource based on the
with PCV7 should complete the series with most frequently asked questions by parents of
PCV13. In addition, a booster dose of PCV 13 is deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Order online
recommended for children as old as 59 months at http://www.handsandvoices.org/resources/
who have completed the four-dose PCV7 series. pubs/OrderForm8-21-09.pdf.
To read more, go to the CDC’s vaccine information
statement at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/
(continued on page 8)
emotions and learning. The DVD was developed
with NIDCD funding by Helen J. Neville, Ph.D., at
the University of Oregon. Watch or order online at
their website at http://changingbrains.org/.
Changing Brains: Effects of Experience
on Human Brain Development (DVD) uses
information and practical recommendations The National Organization for Hearing
based on scientific evidence to explain what Research Foundation (NOHR) has a newly
you can do to help children develop to their designed website at http://nohrfoundation.org/.
full potential. Nine segments describe the brain The organization funds biomedical research into
systems important in vision, hearing, motor skills, the preventions, treatments, causes and cures of
attention, language, reading, math, music, and hearing loss and deafness.
The Noisy Planet Website: It’s Not desk! Order toll-free at 800-241-1044 or 800-241-
1055 (TTY). Order soon! The 2010 calendars went
Just in English Anymore! quickly.
¿Habla usted español?
It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing is an NIDCD Seminar Series Announces
educational campaign that helps parents of
tweens learn about the dangers of overexposure
to loud noise at a young age and how to protect The NIDCD Division of Intramural Research
their hearing for life. Now the website also offers presents a seminar series focusing on the basic
online and printable information in Spanish mechanics of auditory function and hearing
here: http://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/ disorders. The seminar series brings speakers from
parents/. national and international universities to the NIH
campus and offers an opportunity to strengthen
scientific interactions within the NIDCD and
Updated Fact Sheets Online extramural communities. The seminar series is
The following NIDCD fact sheets have been held on the first Tuesday of each month through
updated to reflect new research, treatments, and June 2011. For a full listing of seminars, visit the
diagnostic methods: NIDCD website at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/
Ear Infections in Children at http://www.nidcd.nih.
Ménière’s Disease at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/
health/balance/meniere.html. Inside is produced by the NIDCD Office of
Health Communication and Public Liaison. The
Tinnitus at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/ text in this newsletter is not copyrighted, and
hearing/tinnitus.htm. we encourage its use. For more information
about this newsletter, please contact the editor,
Robert Miranda-Acevedo, at miranda1@mail.
Time to Think About the New Year nih.gov. For general health information about
And what better way to keep track of the days communication disorders, contact the NIDCD
than with a Noisy Planet calendar? The 2011 Information Clearinghouse at:
U.S. Department of Health calendar comes in an easy to use 8½ by 5½ inch Voice: (800) 241–1044
and Human Services TTY: (800) 241–1055
size and can be applied, removed, and reapplied
National Institutes of Health E-mail: email@example.com
to smooth surfaces. Perfect for the fridge or your
NIH Publication No. 10–4202