Neural mechanisms of hearing and their evolution is the central theme of professor Manfred Kössl's research. In mammals it is the inner ear that picks up sound waves from the surrounding environment. The nerves of the inner ear transmit electrical impulses to the hearing centres of the brain including the auditory cortex. Sensory cells in the inner ear are also able amplify low-level sound stimuli and to produce sound energy that can be measured as acoustic emissions emanating from the ear. Kössl's group does research on these basic aspects of our sense of hearing and investigates mechanisms of active perception of sound and their control by neural centres in the brain. This relationship is especially important for focused listening to a particular sound source. The activity of neurons and sensory cells is measured using electrophysiological and bioacoustic methods. Psychophysical tests of cognitive processes are also performed on humans and animals. The results are also used in the analysis of hearing disorders, such as tinnitus. In addition, hearing organs of insects are used as a simple model system of the micromechanics of hearing and are investigated using laser-vibrometry.
In close cooperation with the University of Havana, Kössl's team investigates the evolution of acoustic organs. In this research, bats are used as experimental animals. Their inner ear is particularly sensitive; they hear high-frequency sounds much better than humans. They are also able to establish the location and nature of objects using echolocation. Kössl's studies focus on the perception of time and its processing in the bats' cerebral cortices. "We have discovered that the relevant neural pathways, unlike those in humans, do not develop within a so-called sensitive developmental period of the infant, but are genetically determined and develop prenatally for greater reliability", Kössl reports. "In bats, time is represented topographically in the cortex in the form of chronotopic "time maps" ".
The "Interdisciplinary Neuroscience" Master's Programme, organized by Kössl, combines teaching in basic research with cognitive and clinical neuroscience and is offered in collaboration with various faculties of the Goethe University Frankfurt.
Kössl studied Biology at the Universities of Munich and Tübingen, and wrote his dissertation on frequency perception in the auditory system of bats. From 1988 to 1990, with funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG), he conducted postdoctoral research on the physiology of hair cells at the University of Sussex, before moving to the Zoological Institute at the University of Munich, where he remained for seven years as a research associate. In 1994, while still at Munich, Kössl was made a university lecturer as a result of his neurobiological work on the mammalian inner ear. He received a Heisenberg Fellowship from the DFG from 1997 until 2001, when he was appointed to a professorship at the Goethe University Frankfurt.
Prof. Dr. Manfred Kössl
Institute of Cell Biology and Neuroscience
(Biologicum, Flügel A)
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Telephone: +49 (0)69 798 42050