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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2018 Oct 15. pii: a033225. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a033225. [Epub ahead of print]

Toward the Optical Cochlear Implant.

Author information

1
Institute for Auditory Neuroscience and InnerEarLab, University Medical Center, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.
2
Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Ruhr University Bochum, St. Elisabeth Hospital, 44787 Bochum, Germany.
3
Auditory Neuroscience and Optogenetics Group, German Primate Center, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.
4
Auditory Neuroscience Group, Max-Planck-Institute for Experimental Medicine, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.

Abstract

When hearing fails, cochlear implants (CIs) provide open speech perception to most of the currently half a million CI users. CIs bypass the defective sensory organ and stimulate the auditory nerve electrically. The major bottleneck of current CIs is the poor coding of spectral information, which results from wide current spread from each electrode contact. As light can be more conveniently confined, optical stimulation of the auditory nerve presents a promising perspective for a fundamental advance of CIs. Moreover, given the improved frequency resolution of optical excitation and its versatility for arbitrary stimulation patterns the approach also bears potential for auditory research. Here, we review the current state of the art focusing on the emerging concept of optogenetic stimulation of the auditory pathway. Developing optogenetic stimulation for auditory research and future CIs requires efforts toward viral gene transfer to the neurons, design and characterization of appropriate optogenetic actuators, as well as engineering of multichannel optical implants.

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