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Dr Roland Schaette

Dr Roland Schaette

Appointments

  • Reader in Computational Auditory Neuroscience
    The Ear Institute
    Faculty of Brain Sciences

Joined UCL

2008-11-01

My main research area is auditory neuroscience. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how hearing loss affects neuronal processing in the auditory system, with two main research topics (one could also call them the real-world applications of my basic research interest): how hearing loss could lead to the development of tinnitus and how hearing loss impairs the understanding speech in noise.

The goal of my research on tinnitus is to understand how tinnitus develops after hearing loss, and to develop new treatment strategies based on our results. For this, we are focussing on several research questions:

  • How can hearing loss lead to the development of tinnitus-related pathological changes in the spontaneous activity of neurons in the auditory brain?
  • Can tinnitus be linked to specific patterns of cochlear damage?
  • Which plasticity mechanisms are involved in the development of tinnitus?
  • How can pathological changes after hearing loss be reverted through acoustic or electric stimulation, or through pharmacological interventions?


The research on the effects of hearing loss on speech in noise developed from the tinnitus research, as the two topics actually have more in common than one would think. In the projects related to speech in noise, we study the effects of different kinds of hearing loss on the neural representation of speech stimuli in the auditory midbrain. Specifically, we are interested in finding answers to the following questions:

  • How does background noise affect the neural representation of speech? Can we decode speech in noise from neural activity patterns?
  • How do different kinds of hearing loss impact on the neural representation of speech in noise?
  • What are the consequences of neural plasticity in the central auditory system after hearing loss for understanding speech in noise?

The speech-in-noise experiments using animal models are complemented by studies with human listeners, where we investigate which factors determine the ability to understand speech in noise.

In my studies, I use an interdisciplinary approach with a wide range of techniques depending on which questions are studied, comprising computational neuroscience, auditory evoked potentials, psychophysics, in-vivo electrophysiology, analysis of clinical data and patient studies.

Award year Qualification Institution
2007 PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Biophysics and Bioengineering
Humboldt-Universität Berlin
2002 Dip.
Diploma
Biophysics and Bioengineering
Humboldt-Universität Berlin

“A spider’s web is hidden in one ear, and in the other, a cricket sings throughout the night.” This is how Michelangelo described his experience of hearing loss and tinnitus. The goal of my research is to find the cricket, to understand how tinnitus arises, in order to find new ways of treating it.
I started doing research on tinnitus in 2003, and since November 2008, I have been working in London at the UCL Ear Institute as the British Tinnitus Association Senior Research Associate, transitioning to Lecturer in 2013, and to Reader in 2017.

My motivation to work on tinnitus is based on my interest in the auditory system, my fascination with neuronal plasticity, and my own experience of tinnitus (which is fortunately rather benign). The work on tinnitus has led to the discovery of "hidden hearing loss" in humans, i.e. damage to the inner ear that is not detected through standard hearing tests, which has led me to study the consequences of "hidden" and "obvious" hearing loss on central auditory processing, with a specific focus on the effects on the ability to understand speech in noise.