Alumni News

Rowe Researcher: Rat Models and Human Hearing

Rat Models and Human Hearing: The Categorical Perception of Species-Specific Rate Vocalization

Spring 2018

Principle Investigator: Heather Read

Contributors: Sharon Cherian, Caitlyn Cody, Mackenzie Zapata, Timothy Nolan, Peter Satonick

Several studies have shown that humans and rats are able to differentiate timing cues in sound sequences. The importance of timing cues for speech and word recognition in normal hearing of adults has been recognized by Shannon (1995) and Souza (2015) who outlined the significance of timing cues for speech recognition among the aging human population, that commonly encounter tone frequency hearing loss. Rats are able to communicate and recognize non-speech vocalizations, as do humans.

We will use the two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) task to train rats to discriminate vocalizations (Gaese et al., 2006; Zarillow and Zador, 2014).  The rats will be placed in a sound proof training booth that have nose poke ports on the inside. In the first stage (early stage) of the task, the rats will be receiving a “direct reward” for learning to associate one vocalization with sound delivery with a reward from a port located on the right, and another with sound delivery and reward from a port on the left. First rats are trained incrementally to hold in the Central Nose Port for 150-600 milliseconds to initiate their trial. After holding and hearing the sound play for this duration, the rat needs to navigate to the correct port to receive their reward. The reward is in the form of strawberry or chocolate Ensure protein solution. Once the performance criterion reaches 70-100% for discriminating, the rats will be switched to the “Indirect” phase for the 2AFC paradigm. The sounds in this stage will all be delivered from a central speaker, removing the location cue indicating where the reward might be. Once the rats reach 70-100% correct for the “indirect phase,” they can now be tested in the 2AFC task for discrimination of sound sequences that vary in: timing cues only or timing plus tonal cues combined together.

My research project is essential to understanding more about the auditory system through the examination of interactions between tonal and timing perceptual cues. The results from this research project will allow us to have a more in-depth understanding about not only the auditory system, but how humans perceive specific vocalization sequences and discrimination abilities. Using these results, this will be able to provide valuable insight about human hearing and aging. Hearing aids are widely used by the elderly population, so the results will allow us to optimize hearing aids, as humans do rely heavily on temporal cues to speech. Thus, these results will not only add more to our general understanding about the auditory system, but also allow for improvement for hearing aid devices and other related advancements in clinical settings.


Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Leonela Villegas

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2012
Undergraduate Major(s): Chemical Engineering
Currently Employed By: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pediatric Resident – PL2
Updates: I’m currently in the 2nd year of my Pediatric Residency at CHOP and enjoying the challenges that come with higher acuity patients!

I am slowly figuring out where my interests lie and deciding between Primary Care and Nephrology. However, my passion for Global Health is my main driving factor and I was able to participate in a Primary Care elective in the Dominican Republic last year. I look forward to engaging in different experiences within the next year and a half!

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Devorah Donnell

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2009
Undergraduate Major(s): Biology
Updates: I am finishing Family Medicine Residency at Tufts Family Medicine Residency at Cambridge Health Alliance. After I finish residency this year, I will be moving back to CT to begin working as a PCP this coming Fall! I have been serving as Resident Director for MassAFP, and Mentor for Primary Care Progress chapters. I enjoy leadership, full spectrum reproductive health, medical education, and spending time with my family and adorable nieces and nephew.

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Mallory Perry

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2014
Undergraduate Major(s): Nursing
Currently Employed By: Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Registered Nurse (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit)
Updates: Currently enrolled in UConn School of Nursing’s BS-PhD program. I successfully defended my general exam in June 2017 and was awarded my Masters of Science. I also am a certified pediatric nurse (CPN) as of May 2017. I am currently in my dissertation phase of studies with an expected graduation date of May 2019.

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Ollayos

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2017
Undergraduate Major(s): Nutritional Science
Currently Employed By: Yale New Haven Hospital, Dietetic Intern
Updates: I am currently spending one year working as a dietetic intern at Yale New Haven Hospital. Upon graduation from this program I will be able to take my Registered Dietitian Exam to become an RD. I am taking classes at YNHH and participating directly in patient care. Some of the services I have been on include, Oncology, Surgery, MICU, and Renal. I also had the opportunity to write policies and procedures for the first centralized breast milk fortification room in New England that just opened at YNHH.

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Athena Tao

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2014
Undergraduate Major(s): Pharmacy
Currently Employed By: Kaiser Permanente, Pharmacist
Updates: After graduating with a PharmD in 2016, I moved to Seattle for a new start and new opportunities! Currently, I spend half of my time working as a mail-order pharmacist at Kaiser Permanente of Washington and half of my time as a freelance illustrator.

Rowe Alumni Spotlight: Rishi Kothari

UConn Year of Graduation (Undergraduate): 2009
Undergraduate Major(s): Computer Science
Currently Employed By: University of California San Francisco, Liver transplant anesthesiology fellow
Updates: Moved to San Francisco to pursue liver transplant anesthesiology and dip my feet in to Silicon Valley, maybe come away with a consulting position or connections to the startup world in med tech!