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Post-doctoral Position Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience

Open Post-doctoral Position – Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience – Carnegie Mellon University

We are seeking a creative, energetic postdoctoral auditory cognitive (neuro)scientist to join our research team. The position will be supported by a NIH-supported research project, Dimension-based auditory attention, that weds the joint expertise of Drs. Lori Holt and Barbara Shinn-Cunningham (Carnegie Mellon University) and Drs. Frederic Dick and Adam Tierney (Birkbeck College, University of London) to understand how human adults selectively attend to specific dimensions of complex sound.

Human communication and other listening behaviors often take place in acoustically complex, or noisy environments like schools, restaurants, and workplaces. Much of daily life requires us to select behaviorally relevant auditory dimensions, and potentially suppress irrelevant dimensions, so that the information conveyed can be remembered and responded to appropriately. Unfortunately, this vital everyday ability is affected by many neurological conditions resulting in marked decreases in quality of life. Despite the importance of auditory selective attention, its cognitive and neural mechanisms are poorly understood. For example, although auditory selective attention is widely presumed to involve both a selective enhancement of behaviorally relevant auditory dimensions and suppression of dimensions outside this attentional focus, evidence for suppression is scant. The long-term goal of the research is to arrive at a mechanistic understanding of auditory selective attention to specific acoustic dimensions.

This postdoctoral position will involve carrying out the research program described above using psychophysics, behavioral training studies, and scalp electrophysiology. A functional magnetic resonance imaging arm of the project may intersect with this position in a collaborative manner.

The position also will involve many opportunities for professional development and cross-lab training. The candidate will join a growing and highly interactive Pittsburgh Cognitive Auditory Neuroscience (PCAN) collective committed to understanding human auditory behavior and is psychological and biological bases. Carnegie Mellon University’s strengths are complemented by those of the immediately adjacent University of Pittsburgh. Together, the two institutions boast research strengths in human, nonhuman animal, and clinical approaches to
understanding auditory behavior. The successful candidate will be welcomed into a thriving, interdisciplinary intellectual community. Researchers in this highly supportive environment seek to span disciplines and employ multiple methodologies in their research. Facilities include a state-of-the-art MRI facility, EEG, NIRS, and MEG systems, and large-scale, high-performance computing clusters situated in a highly collaborative environment.

Pittsburgh, home to Carnegie Mellon University, is consistently rated among the most livable cities in America. With low cost-of-living, a thriving restaurant scene, a wealth of outdoor activities, and an accessible cultural district, there are ample opportunities to cultivate good work-life balance while advancing your scientific goals.

We believe that equity and diversity make for better science.  We especially encourage candidates from diverse backgrounds to apply.

• A PhD in neuroscience, psychology, engineering, or related
• One or more years of expertise in auditory cognitive (neuro)science or related field; prior experience with
human electrophysiology and psychophysics is highly desirable
• Broad experience with neuroscience or cognitive science literature; previous expertise with auditory
cognitive neuroscience is advantageous
• Fundamental curiosity about how the brain coordinates auditory behavior, and a willingness to engage in
collaborative research in a workplace that values intellectual playfulness
• Statistical and programming skills (e.g., Matlab, Python, R); One or more years of experience with
coding, data analysis, or computational modeling
• Enjoyment of working with and teaching others; willingness to play a role in mentoring more junior
researchers in the group
• Fluency in speaking and writing in English
• Demonstrated ability to write results for publication in the scientific literature
• Flexibility, ability to learn quickly
• The ability to work independently as well as part of a scientific team

Compensation will be aligned to the National Institutes of Health salary pay scale, according to experience. The initial appointment will be  one year, with further funding possible for additional years upon satisfactory performance.

Please apply with a cover letter expressing your research expertise, qualifications, interests, and research/career goals. Please also include a CV and the names of at least two references in an email to Christi Gomez( You may direction questions and/or applications to Professor Lori Holt ( The position is open immediately and candidates will be sought until the position is filled.

Carnegie Mellon University does not discriminate in admission, employment, or administration of its programs or activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, ancestry, belief, veteran status, or genetic information. Furthermore, Carnegie Mellon University does not discriminate and is required not to discriminate in violation of federal, state, or local laws or executive orders.

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I began studying the vestibular system during my dissertation research at the Università di Pavia with Professors Ivo Prigioni and GianCarlo Russo. I had two postdoctoral fellowships, first at the University of Rochester with Professor Christopher Holt and then at the University of Illinois at Chicago with Professors Jonathan Art and Jay Goldberg.

My research focuses on characterizing the biophysics of synaptic transmission between hair cells and primary afferents in the vestibular system. For many years an outstanding question in vestibular physiology was how the transduction current in the type I hair cell was sufficient, in the face of large conductances on at rest, to depolarize it to potentials necessary for conventional synaptic transmission with its unique afferent calyx.

In collaboration with Dr. Art, I overcame the technical challenges of simultaneously recording from type I hair cells and their enveloping calyx afferent to investigate this question. I was able to show that with depolarization of either hair cell or afferent, potassium ions accumulating in the cleft depolarize the synaptic partner. Conclusions from these studies are that due to the extended apposition between type I hair cell and its afferent, there are three modes of communication across the synapse. The slowest mode of transmission reflects the dynamic changes in potassium ion concentration in the cleft which follow the integral of the ongoing hair cell transduction current. The intermediate mode of transmission is indirectly a result of this potassium elevation which serves as the mechanism by which the hair cell potential is depolarized to levels necessary for calcium influx and the vesicle fusion typical of glutamatergic quanta. This increase in potassium concentration also depolarizes the afferent to potentials that allow the quantal EPSPs to trigger action potentials. The third and most rapid mode of transmission like the slow mode of transmission is bidirectional, and a current flowing out of either hair cell or afferent into the synaptic cleft will divide between a fraction flowing out into the bath, and a fraction flowing across the cleft into its synaptic partner.

The technical achievement of the dual electrode approach has enabled us to identify new facets of vestibular end organ synaptic physiology that in turn raise new questions and challenges for our field. I look forward with great excitement to the next chapter in my scientific story.


Charles C. Della Santina, PhD MD is a Professor of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery and Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he directs the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Implant Center and the Johns Hopkins Vestibular NeuroEngineering Laboratory.

As a practicing neurotologic surgeon, Dr. Della Santina specializes in treatment of middle ear, inner ear and auditory/vestibular nerve disorders. His clinical interests include restoration of hearing via cochlear implantation and management of patients who suffer from vestibular disorders, with a particular focus on helping individuals disabled by chronic postural instability and unsteady vision after bilateral loss of vestibular sensation. His laboratory’s research centers on basic and applied research supporting development of vestibular implants, which are medical devices intended to partially restore inner ear sensation of head movement. In addition to that work, his >90 publications include studies characterizing inner ear physiology and anatomy; describing novel clinical tests of vestibular function; and clarifying the effects of cochlear implantation, vestibular implantation, superior canal dehiscence syndrome and intratympanic gentamicin therapy on the inner ear and central nervous system.  Dr. Della Santina is also the founder and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer of Labyrinth Devices LLC, a company dedicated to bringing novel vestibular testing and implant technology into routine clinical care.

Andrew Griffith received his MD and PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 1992. He completed his general surgery internship and a residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Michigan in 1998. He also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the Department of Human Genetics as part of his training at the University of Michigan. In 1998, he joined the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) in the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). He served as a senior investigator, the chief of the Molecular Biology and Genetics Section, the chief of the Otolaryngology Branch, and the director of the DIR, as well as the deputy director for Intramural Clinical Research across the NIH Intramural Research Program. His research program identifies and characterizes molecular and cellular mechanisms of normal and disordered hearing and balance in humans and mouse models. Two primary interests of his program have been hearing loss associated with enlargement of the vestibular aqueduct, and the function of TMC genes and proteins. The latter work lead to the discovery that the deafness gene product TMC1 is a component of the hair cell sensory transduction channel. Since July of 2020, he has served as the Senior Associate Dean of Research and a Professor of Otolaryngology and Physiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Gwenaëlle S. G. Géléoc obtained a PhD in Sensory Neurobiology from the University of Sciences in Montpellier (France) in 1996. She performed part of her PhD training at the University of Sussex, UK where she characterized sensory transduction in vestibular hair cells and a performed a comparative study between vestibular and cochlear hair cells. Gwenaelle continued her training as an electrophysiologist at University College London studying outer hair cell motility and at Harvard Medical School studying modulation of mechanotransduction in vestibular hair cells. As an independent investigator at the University of Virginia, she expanded this work and characterized the developmental acquisition of sensory transduction in mouse vestibular hair cells, the developmental acquisition of voltage-sensitive conductances in vestibular hair cells and the tonotopic gradient in the acquisition of sensory transduction in the mouse cochlea. This work along with quantitative spatio-temporal studies performed on several hair cell mechanotransduction candidates lead her to TMC1 and 2 and long-term collaborations with Andrew Griffith and Jeff Holt. Dr. Géléoc is currently Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, at Boston Children’s Hospital where she continues to study molecular players involved in the development and function of hair cells of the inner ear and develops new therapies for the treatment of deafness and balance, with a particular focus on Usher syndrome.

Jeff Holt earned a doctorate from the Department of Physiology at the University of Rochester in 1995 for his studies of inward rectifier potassium channels in saccular hair cells.  He went on to a post-doctoral position in the Neurobiology Department at Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he characterized sensory transduction and adaptation in hair cells and developed a viral vector system to transfect cultured hair cells.  Dr. Holt’s first faculty position was in the Neuroscience Department at the University of Virginia.  In 2011 the lab moved to Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Holt is currently a Professor in the Departments of Otolaryngology and Neurology in the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center.  Dr. Holt and his team have been studying sensory transduction in auditory and vestibular hair cells over the past 20 years, with particular focus on TMC1 and TMC2 over the past 12 years.  This work lead to the discovery that TMC1 forms the hair cell transduction channel.  His work also focuses on development gene therapy strategies for genetic hearing loss.