Jeffrey R Holt

Jeffrey R Holt

Professor of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery
Jeffrey R Holt

Sensory transduction converts stimulus information into electrical information and is at the interface between the world around us and the brain. To understand how information is encoded and transmitted to the brain we study the sensory cells and neurons of the inner ear.

Sensory transduction in the ear begins with nanometer scale movement of mechanosensitive organelles that project from the apical surface of inner ear hair cells. In the auditory system this exquisite sensitivity can initiate signals that encode faint pizzicato from a classical violin. Remarkably, hair cells can also detect stimuli with amplitudes over a million times greater, and thus are able to signal the booming cannons of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture as well. This extraordinary dynamic range is the result of a sensory transduction process that utilizes several feedback mechanisms to precisely reposition and tune the mechanosensitive apparatus within the optimal range, allowing detection of auditory stimuli that span the breadth of amplitudes and frequencies humans encounter daily.

Current projects in the lab range from investigations of sensory transduction and adaptation in hair cells, to development of inner ear function to development of gene therapy strategies for hearing restoration. To gain insight into inner ear structure and function we use electrophysiological techniques to study hair cells and neurons, molecular and genetic techniques to identify and manipulate inner ear genes and proteins, and imaging techniques to study protein localization and function.

We have an active research group focused on the function and dysfunction of the inner ear. Our goal is to understand how stimuli from the external world, such as sound, gravity and head movements are converted into electrical signals, how the information is encoded and how it is transmitted to the brain. We want to understand why genetic mutations cause hearing loss and vestibular dysfunction. We plan to use this information to design novel therapeutic innervations for deafness and balance disorders. Now, more than ever, there is remarkable opportunity for fundamental discovery in the basic neurobiology of the inner ear as well as opportunity to translate recent discoveries into real world strategies for treating hearing and balance disorders which affect ~250 million people worldwide.

Contact Information

Boston Children's Hospital
Center for Life Sciences 3003
3 Blackfan Circle
Boston, MA 02115
p: 617-919-3574