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Fall 2010

Feature Story

Giving Voice to Thoughts:
NIDCD-Funded Research Helps the Locked-In Communicate Again by Turning Thoughts into Words

A middle-aged woman, paralyzed except for the ability to tilt her head and move her eyes, sits in a wheelchair. Extending from the top of her head is a plug, with a cord running from it to a computer linked to a monitor. On the monitor screen is a display of a standard QWERTY keyboard. Silently a cursor moves across the keyboard. Asked how she likes using this system, she deliberately picks out the letters E-X-C-I-T-I-N-G. Amazingly, she does this just by thinking of her hand controlling and clicking an imaginary mouse. Read more.

Recent Research and News

New NIDCD Research Offers Intriguing Clues About the Role of Smell in Food Preference

Scientists have noticed for decades that rodents take their dining clues from their peers, basing their preferences for different foods on the last thing one of their buddies ate. It’s a behavioral strategy that could be seen as a way to stack the deck against eating harmful or poisonous foods. But no one had been able to explain how the brain put the two odors together to signal “okay to eat.” NIDCD-funded researcher Richard Munger, Ph.D., at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, along with an international team of researchers, used knock-out mice to show that the behavior is the result of a dedicated subsystem of specialized olfactory receptors in the nose and neural circuits in the brain. Read more.

What You Can’t Hear Won’t Hurt You? Maybe Not

Wind turbines, giant propellered contraptions that turn wind power into electricity, are rapidly becoming popular as green energy sources in Europe and the United States. This is good for the environment, but the rotors and blades of wind turbines generate noise in the infrasound range that some people claim makes them feel dizzy or unable to sleep, among other symptoms. Read more.

The First Recipe for Cooking Up Functional Hair Cells from Stem Cells

Thanks to research funded by the NIDCD and conducted by Stefan Heller, Ph.D., and a group of colleagues at Stanford University School of Medicine, scientists have a way to grow abundant numbers of functional inner ear hair cells using embryonic mouse stem cells and a combination of growth-inducing substances. Read more.

NIDCD Highlights

Noisy Planet News

Acoustics Today, a quarterly publication of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), is featuring an article about the NIDCD’s Noisy Planet campaign in its October 2010 issue. Also, Noisy Planet takes to the road! Read more.

NIDCD Strategic Plan Update

The NIDCD has issued a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) to help guide the development of the Strategic Plan for 2012-16. Read more.

NDCD Advisory Council Adds Five New Members

The National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NDCD) Advisory Council welcomed five new members at its most recent meeting, held in September. The meeting included a presentation by NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who highlighted notable NIDCD research advances and participated in an informal Q&A session. Read more.

Grants News

NIDCD Grantee Receives ‘Genius Award’

NIDCD grantee Carol Padden, Ph.D., is the recent recipient of what is popularly known as a “genius” award from the MacArthur Foundation—a fellowship that comes with a stipend of $500,000. Dr. Padden is the first deaf individual to receive the prestigious award, which has been given to 823 individuals since its inception. Read more.

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