Multisensory brain laboratory

Chief investigator

Associate Professor Douglas Hartley

Study team

Dr Rebecca Dewey
Dr Ian Wiggins
Dr Carly Anderson
Nuno Gama


Study period

The Multisensory Brain Laboratory is affiliated to the University of Nottingham, Division of Otolaryngology, the NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU, the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research (MRC IHR) and the Nottingham Auditory Implant Programme. It conducts clinical, translational and basic-science research.

Our brains combine information from multiple senses, including hearing, vision and touch, in order to interact effectively with the world around us. This laboratory is interested in the brain’s ability to combine information across multiple senses, and what happens to this sensory integration following deprivation in one modality. We are particularly interested in the relationship between the perceptual capabilities of cochlear implant candidates and the responsiveness of their brains to auditory and non-auditory stimulation.

We record brain activity using emerging technology, namely near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), that is particularly well-suited for use in individuals with cochlear implants, since it is unaffected by the surgically-implanted magnet and electrical artefact. In parallel studies, we use a deafness model to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying multisensory integration within the brain.

Dr Rebecca Dewey measures multimodal brain activity using NIRS in normal-hearing and deaf individuals. To overcome potential limitations of this neuroimaging technique, for some recordings, we use a combination of NIRS and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) through our collaboration with Professor Richard Bowtell and Professor Sue Francis. Brain imaging facilities are provided at the University of Nottingham ( Ian Wiggins uses NIRS to study effects of cochlear implantation on multimodal activity within the developing and adult brain. Nuno Gama studies mechanisms underlying multimodal brain responses using a deafness model. Carly Lawler uses NIRS to assess multisensory integration of visual activity derived from speech reading, with activity derived from hearing speech with a cochlear implant.

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Together this research may provide valuable insights into mechanisms underlying variable cochlear implant outcomes, and could help develop clinically-useful prognostic tools for cochlear implant recipients. We also aim to develop novel strategies for the rehabilitation patients with hearing loss and cochlear implants, in addition to evaluating standard clinical therapies.

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Collaborators: Professor Alan Palmer (Deputy Director, MRC Institute of Hearing Research), Professor Richard Bowtell (Head, School of Physics and Astronomy), Professor Sue Francis (Professor, School of Physics and Astronomy), Professor Deborah Hall (Director, NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU), Ana Alves-Pinto