Honors & News
August 28, 2015
Carney lab looks beyond inner ear in quest for better hearing aids
Laurel Carney, Ph.D.
Most hearing aids on the market today are designed to mimic what happens in our inner ear - specifically the amplifying role of the outer hair cells.
However, the lab of Laurel Carney, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is studying what happens beyond the inner ear - in the complex network of auditory nerve fibers that transmit the inner ear's electrical signals to the brain, and in the auditory center of the midbrain, which processes those signals.
Therein lies the key to creating hearing aids that not only make human speech louder but clearer, Carney believes.
An important focus of her research uses a combination of physiological and behavioral studies, and computer modeling, to study the 30,000 auditory nerve fibers on each side of our brain that transmit electrical signals from the inner ear. Critical to this is the initial
transductionof mechanical energy to electrical signals that occurs in the inner h air cells of the inner ear's organ of Corti.
This is critical for shaping the patterning of responses in the auditory nerves, and the patterning of those responses at this first level, where the signal comes into the brain, has a big effect on the way the mid brain responds to the relatively low frequencies of the human voice,Carney explained.
In people with healthy hearing, the initial transduction results in a wide contrast in how various auditory nerve fibers transmit this information.
The responses of some fibers are dominated by a single tone, or harmonic, within the sound; others respond to fluctuations that are set up by the beating of multiple harmonics,Carney said. In the mid brain, neurons are capable of assimilating this contrast of fluctuating and nonfluctuating inputs across varying frequencies. They begin the process of parsing out the sounds of speech and any other vocalizations that involve low frequencies. A better understanding of how this process works in the midbrain, Carney believes, could yield new strategies for designing hearing aids.
A lot of people have tried to design hearing aids based just on what is going on in the inner ear, but there's a lot of redundancies in the information generated there. We argue that you need to step back and, from the viewpoint of the midbrain, focus on what really matters. It's the pattern of fluctuations in the auditory nerve fibers that the midbrain responds to. The sort of strategies we're suggesting are not intuitive. The idea of trying to restore the contrast in the fluctuations across different frequency channels has not been tried before. The burden is on us to prove that it works,she added.
To that end, Carney works closely with Joyce McDonough, Professor of Linguistics, in exploring how auditory nerve fiber transmissions play a role in coding speech sounds. Her lab also works closely with that of Jong-Hoon Nam, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Biomedical Engineering, whose inner-ear studies were described in this newsletter last week. Carney shares what her lab is learning about the interface of auditory nerve fiber signaling with the brain, and in return,
we try to include in our models a lot of the nonlinear properties of the inner ear that he (Nam) has been working on. By interacting with his lab, we hope to continue to modernize our model as he discovers more,Carney said.
July 7, 2015
Researcher Wins Auditory Neuroscience Award
Laurel Carney, a professor of Biomedical Engineering, has been recognized for her work by the premier scientific organization in the field of acoustics. The Acoustical Society of America has awarded Carney the William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience.
It's truly a great honor to receive an award created by Bill and Christine Hartmann, two of my role models,said Carney.
I welcome the challenge to emulate their life of discovery, presentation, publication, service, and education throughout the world.
William and Christine Hartmann established the award with a donation to recognize and honor
research that links auditory physiology with auditory perception or behavior in humans or other animals.William Hartmann is a physicist, psychoacoustician, and former president of the Acoustical Society of America. His contributions to the field involved pitch perception, signal detection, modulation detection, and the localization of sound.
In her research lab, Carney is working to better understand how the brain translates sounds into patterns of electrical impulses. By studying physiology, human hearing, and computer models, Carney hopes to learn how the brain distinguishes sounds in noisy environments and why even a small degree of hearing loss can lead to major problems. Her ultimate goal is to develop effective strategies to help people who have experienced hearing loss.
Carney earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University and professor of biomedical engineering at Syracuse University before joining the faculty at the University of Rochester in 2007, where she serves as professor in three departments—biomedical engineering, neurobiology and anatomy, and electrical and computer engineering.
For additional information, visit the Rochester Newsroom.
June 10, 2015
Laurel Carney, Ph.D.
Laurel H. Carney has been awarded the William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). The award was presented at the 169th meeting of the ASA on 20 May 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience was established in 2011 through a generous donation by Bill and Chris Hartmann to the Acoustical Society of America to recognize and honor research that links auditory physiology with auditory perception or behavior in humans or other animals.
The Acoustical Society of America provides an important scientific home for researchers pursuing questions related to sound and hearing. This group has positively shaped many of our careers, especially by providing access to an incredible group of mentors and role models. Receiving an award created by Bill and Christine Hartmann, two of my own role models, is truly a great honor. This award presents a challenge for me to emulate their life of discovery, presentation, publication, service, and education throughout the world, said Carney.
The goal of Dr. Carney's research program is to understand how the brain hears. The initial response of brain cells to sound is a complicated pattern of electrical pulses, a pattern that is modified and interpreted by millions of cells in many parts of the brain. Studies of physiology, human hearing, and computer models are combined to understand how this process works in listeners with normal hearing, so that an answer can be found to the question: How is the brain so good at hearing in noisy environments? Another goal is to understand why only relatively small amounts of hearing loss cause significant problems. Why does background noise (such as that in a busy restaurant) become so problematic for people with hearing loss? Answers to both of these questions will lead to better strategies for aiding listeners with hearing loss.
For more information, visit the Department of Biomedical Engineering story.
December 11, 2014
Laurel Carney Receives STTR Grant with Omnispeech
The Carney Lab has received an STTR Grant titled "Speech Enhancement Based on Auditory Coding of Voiced Signals."
This project will test the feasibility of a novel speech-enhancement strategy based on recent physiological and modeling studies. The lab is joining forces with a small company, Omnispeech LLC, which has expertise in developing algorithms for speech enhancement for cell phone applications. The long-term goal is to develop signal-processing algorithms that will enhance speech in noisy environments for listeners with normal hearing or with hearing loss. In addition to cell phones, other applications could include hearing-aids or other assistive devices.
November 21, 2013
Professor Laurel Carney Receives NIH-NIDCD Grant Renewal
Professor Laurel Carney received a renewal for another five years for her NIH-NIDCD grant entitled
Auditory Processing of Complex Sounds.The new emphasis for the next five years is to investigate neural coding of speech sounds, starting with vowels. This new direction is possible thanks to the collaboration with Professor Joyce McDonough from the Linguistics Department. This grant will support graduate students and a post-doc in BME, Linguistics, or related fields who are interested in speech coding in the brain.
May 21, 2013
BME Students Publish Paper on Novel Metric to Help NICU Nurses
A group of 2011 BME graduates have published an article in the journal of Early Human Development. This article started up as a class project in the Fall of their sophomore year, in BME 201P, that involved development of a Matlab tool to help nurses track painful procedures performed on babies in the NICU. At the end of that course, these students formed a research team to continue collaborating with Dr. Martin Schiavenato, who was then in the School of Nursing. This paper is the culmination of that two and a half year effort.
March 4, 2013
Laurel Carney Receives UR Research Mobility Travel Grant
Laurel Carney, Ph.D., has received a $5000 UR Research Mobility Travel Grants for the project, Establishing a Facility for Auditory Physiology in Awake Animals. The funds will be used in the summer of 2013 in a collaboration with the University of Malaysia and former Carney Lab Postdoctoral Fellow, Muhammad S. A. Zilany, Ph.D.
August 23, 2011
BME Seniors Improving Automatic Detection of Epileptic Seizures
A group of BME Seniors led by Professor Laurel Carney has been working together since Fall of their Sophomore year on a research project with the goal of improving automatic detection of epileptic seizures. This debilitating neurologic disorder has an impact on millions of patients, yet there is hope for better treatment through improved detection and someday, prediction, of seizures. The group founded UR DASDA (Database for Automatic Seizure Detection Algorithms), and established a goal of setting up an internet-based database that will provide high-quality electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings for researchers around the world who are developing seizure detection algorithms.
In collaboration with Drs. James Burchfiel, Michel Berg, and staff in the Strong Epilepsy Center in the Department of Neurology, the group is collecting data that will be suitable for this research effort. Owen Zacharias, from the Departments of BME and Neurobiology & Anatomy, has been coordinating efforts with the computing administrators at the URMC to establish a website that can handle the large datafiles that are being developed. The students designed a website that will allow researchers to carefully select and download examples of seizures for use in testing algorithms. They are currently populating the database with datafiles, with a goal of 100 entries, including infants through older adults and a wide range of seizure types. A preliminary report of this database will be presented at the Fall conference of the Biomedical Engineering Society in Hartford Connecticut. The BME Seniors in UR DASDA are Gregory Hartnett, Andrew Hagar, Caitlin O'Connell, Zachary Milstone, Brian Schwartz, and Geoffrey Yee.
May 6, 2011
A student team that presented a business plan to commercialize two devices for monitoring pain in premature infants took first place in this year's Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition and third place in the Mark Ain Business Model Competition at the University of Rochester.
Biomedical engineering students Benjamin Freedman and Johanna Kelly, which make up the OmNeo, LLC team, presented two systems:
- wee rePLI, which objectively measures pain during procedures
- ORB|IT, which continually measures an infant's pain
Reducing pain in premature infants can assist clinicians in better focusing treatment and can help prevent developmental health consequences. The devices were developed by a larger team of students, supervised by Professors Laurel Carney from Biomedical Engineering, and Martin Schiavento from the School of Nursing.
May 1, 2011
Laurel Carney Awarded Engineering Professor of the Year
Congratulations to Professor Laurel Carney, who was recognized by the Student Association as the Engineering Professor of the Year at the prestigious annual University of Rochester Undergraduate Research Symposium. Undergrad Travis Bevington, BME '12, said, in presenting the award,
Even with all of her research, Professor Carney manages to find time to spend countless hours with students on projects and it really proves how much she cares about our success as students. She really serves as an outlet to different opportunities that students might be unaware of, such as finding a lab position or research opportunity. Beyond the classroom, Professor Carney is always in high demand for letters of recommendation—students really feel like she takes the time to get to know all of us, even if her deck of cards in class can be quite intimidating!(Dr. Carney has a deck of playing cards, with one card for each student. Cards are drawn during class to direct questions to the students.)
Said Professor Carney about the award,
Since coming to UR 4 years ago, I've been greatly impressed by the quality of the undergraduates here and have really enjoyed my classes. Receiving this recognition from the students is a great honor. On the other hand, I think it provides objective evidence that my courses are too easy; I intend to remedy this situation as quickly as I can!
April 15, 2011
BME professor Laurel Carney, Ph.D. (with Kelli Summers, and Benjamin Freedman) was recognized by the Student Association as the Engineering Professor of the Year.
Congratulations to the RCBU and BME students whose work was recognized at the prestigious annual University of Rochester Undergraduate Research Exposition 2011. Undergraduate students from RCBU and BME research laboratories participated in the symposium. BME undergrads Benjamin Freedman '11 and Kelli Summers '11 were both invited to speak at the Engineering and Applied Sciences Symposium Talks.
Freedman discussed his work, What is Q-Angle really measuring? A novel alternative to predict patellar maltracking, which received the Dean's Award. Summers spoke about her research with Dr. James McGrath, Mechanisms Underlying Collective Cell Migration in Vitro, which was recognized by President Seligman with the President's Award. Aaron Zakrzewski (ME '11), mentored by Mechanical Engineering Professor Sheryl Gracewski, gave an oral presentation of his research titled Natural frequency of bubbles within rigid and compliant tubes. Aaron also received a Deans' Award for Undergraduate Research in Engineering and Applied Sciences for his presentation. In addition, five of the seven poster exhibitions from the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences were by BME students:
- Molly Boutin (Benoit Lab) BME '11
- A Polymeric Delivery System to Induce Differentiation in hMSCs
- Jasmine Carvalho (Dalecki Lab) BME '11
- Investigations of Ultrasound Parameters to Promote Spatial Organization of Cells in Three-Dimensional Engineered Tissues
- Vlabhav Kakkad (McAleavey Lab) BME '12
- Experimental Implementation of Shear Wave Induced Phase Encoding Imaging
- Angela Ketterer (Carney Lab) BME '12
- Design and Implementation of a Behavioral Apparatus for Auditory Research in Birds
- Hannah Watkins (Benoit Lab) BME '11
- Novel Parthenolide Delivery System for Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment
- (Received the Professor's Choice Award)
November 15, 2010
Professor Laurel Carney Receives a 2010 R01 Grant
Biomedical Engineering and Neurobiology & Anatomy Professor Laurel Carney has received funding for her 2010 R01 grant entitled:
Developing and Testing Models for the Auditory System with & without Hearing Loss. This study involves testing listeners with both normal hearing and hearing loss. The project focusses on the development of computational models that will assist in the testing of signal processing strategies for hearing aids.
She also received a renewal for five years of support from the NIH-NIDCD to study Auditory Processing of Complex Sounds; this renewal extends this research program to 20 consecutive years of NIH funding. Her research has resulted in better understanding of the physiological response to sound in the healthy auditory system, and may contribute to the improvement of hearing aids for those with hearing loss.
July 26, 2010
BME Students Participate in the David T. Kearns Symposium
Six current BME students participated in the summer session of the David T. Kearns Research Symposium for Leadership and Diversity in the Arts, Sciences, and Engineering by presenting posters about their research. The symposium was held on Thursday July 29, 2010 in the Sloan Auditorium at Goergen Hall, and was sponsored by the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering.
- Threshold of Non-Eye Movement Vestibular Cells in Alert Monkeys
- Daniel Barbash, mentored by Laurel Carney
- Analysis of SHG (Second Harmonic Generation) Microscopy Sensitivity to Experimental Parameters
- Jacy Bulaon, mentored by Edward Brown III
- Investigating Acoustic Parameters that Optimize Ultrasound Standing Wave Fields for Cell Banding
- Jasmine Carvalho, mentored by Diane Dalecki
- Strategies for Erythrocyte Maturation In Vitro
- Eric Lam, mentored by Richard Waugh
- Identifying Potential Transcription Factors Regulating Cellulose Degradation in Ethanol Production in Clostridium Thermocellum
- Kathleen Maloney, mentored by J.H. David Wu
- Novel Parthenolide Delivery System for Leukemia Treatment
- Hannah Watkins, mentored by Danielle Benoit
May 6, 2010
BME Undergraduate Daniel Barbash Awarded a Xerox Undergraduate Fellowship
Daniel Barbash, a junior in BME, has received a Xerox Undergraduate Research Fellowship. He will join a collaborative project focusing on the analysis of the responses of vestibular neurons to novel stimuli with Prof. Shawn Newlands, Chair of Otolaryngology, and Prof. Laurel Carney, BME and NBA. This project is associated with the Center for Navigation and Communication Studies (CNCS). The UR SEAS Xerox Undergraduate Fellows Program is a highly competitive program that provides engineering students with research experience. The program begins during the summer preceding the senior year, and continues as an independent research course in the fall and spring semesters of the senior year.
April 27, 2010
At the BMES Annual Banquet, several undergraduate students were recognized for their achievements in leadership, research, academics, service and teaching. The banquet, held on April 9th in the Munnerlyn Atrium of Goergen Hall, also offered an opportunity for students to honor Professor Laurel Carney as the BME faculty member of the Year.
October 7, 2009
Martin Schiavenato, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor at the School of Nursing, was awarded the prestigious Nurse Faculty Scholarship Award will support his research into how pain is measured in premature babies. Schiavenato was mentored by Laurel Carney, Ph.D., professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurobiology and Anatomy and Harriet Kitzman, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., associate dean of research at the School of Nursing (SON).