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Dr. Ó Maoiléidigh received his BA in Theoretical Physics and MSc in High-Performance Computing from Trinity College Dublin through a full scholarship from the Irish Government. He then received his PhD in Physics from Rutgers University, where he studied pausing in transcription elongation using mathematical and computational approaches. Dr. Ó Maoiléidigh first began to work in the field of hearing research as a Guest Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems. He described how the cochlear amplifier arises from a combination of two forms of active motility in the mammalian cochlea. As a Postdoctoral Associate and Research Associate in The Rockefeller University, he developed models of cochlear mechanics, hair-bundle motility, and synaptic dynamics. A model of hair-bundle motility explained mechanistically how it is possible for hair bundles to have a different function in hearing organs in comparison to balance organs. Under Dr. Ó Maoiléidigh's guidance, several predictions of this model were verified experimentally using a novel experimental system.Dr. Ó Maoiléidigh founded the annual Sense to Synapse conference in 2012. This meeting brings researchers together who use experimental or computational methods to study any aspect of sensory perception (http://www.sense2synapse.com/).Dáibhid Ó Maoiléidigh's laboratory is part of the Research Division in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. His laboratory uses mathematical and computational approaches to study hearing and balance disorders.
The Ó Maoiléidigh group employs mathematical and computational approaches to better understand normal hearing and hearing impairment. Because complete restoration of auditory function by artificial devices or regenerative treatments will only be possible when experiments and computational modeling align, we work closely with experimental laboratories. Our goal is to understand contemporary experimental observations, to make experimentally testable predictions, and to motivate new experiments. We are pursuing several projects.Hair-Bundle MechanicsAuditory and balance organs rely on hair cells to convert mechanical vibrations into electrical signals for transmission to the brain. In response to the quietest sounds we can hear, the hair cell's mechanical sensor, the hair bundle, moves by less than one-billionth of a meter. To determine how this astounding sensitivity is possible, we construct computational models of hair-bundle mechanics. By comparing models with experimental observations, we are learning how a hair bundle's geometry, material properties, and ability to move spontaneously determine its function.Cochlear MechanicsThe cochlea contains the auditory organ that houses the sensory hair cells in mammals. Vibrations in the cochlea arising from sound are amplified more than a thousandfold by the ear's active process. New experimental techniques have additionally revealed that the cochlea vibrates in a complex manner in response to sound. We use computational models to interpret these observations and to make hypotheses about how the cochlea works.