The Rutherford Lab is focused on sensory encoding. We study how sound is transduced by the inner ear into action potentials in the auditory nerve through mechanisms of synaptic transmission. 

During overexposure to sound, excessive release of glutamate from the sensory receptors (inner hair cells) drives an excito-toxic response resulting in synaptic disintegration and auditory nerve degeneration. Our experiments are testing hypotheses about the mechanisms of glutamatergic excitotoxicity in the cochlea.    

Auditory nerve fibers of the cochlea differ greatly in sound-response properties. In addition, they differ in excitotoxic vulnerability. Our overall goal is to know what makes them different, considering the combined effects of presynaptic, postsynaptic, and spike generator heterogeneities.