After an Easter egg hunt, we decided to go out to brunch. Due to our own procrastination, we couldn’t get into any of the tonier venues about town for Easter brunch. Instead, we ended up at the City Diner on South Grand, one of favorite greasy soups. Both Anne and Dave had the salmon omelet, an Easter special, while I had my favorite, Eggs Benedict. They both loved their omelets. I’m such a creature of habit.
We discussed plans for the summer. Dave has a conference here in Saint Louis, this July. Rey will be coming through town that month too. Maybe the stars will align themselves properly, but maybe not. Anne should already be at the cabin by then, but I’ll be here. We also discussed good dates for when Dave should to go to the cabin. His lab at Purdue is moving to another building in July, so he has to schedule around that event too. He can’t miss moving day. All graduate students on deck please!
We got Dave talking about his research. It is all about auditory nerves. Let me give you the short course, because that’s all I could anyway. In the ear there are these specialized nerve cells called hair cells. They have nothing to do with hair, but are called hair cells, because they each have cilia that look sort of like hair. There are two kinds of hair cells, outer hair cells and inner hair cells. The outer hair cells act like non-linear amplifiers. They greatly increase our hearing’s dynamic range. So, we can hear both very soft sounds and can still go to eleven. The inner hair cells transform these amplified signals into the electrical impulses that are sent to the brain.
When people lose their hearing it is most commonly because some of these hair cells have died, either due to age or too much rock music at eleven. The problem is that it is not always clear whether it is the outer or inner hair cells that have been lost. Knowing this would make cochlear implant technology much more effective. Dave is diagnosing this problem using chinchillas.
Unfortunately, things have been going slower than he had hoped. His surgical technique could use some work and the drug he uses to artificially destroy hair cells is also adversely affecting the auditory nerve. He has a workaround for the drug effect and a Fulbright scholar who has just joined the lab is a hot-shot surgeon and is giving Dave pointers. This scholar mentioned to Dave that after his stint at Purdue, he would be moving to a lab in Belgium and that there would be an opening there for a post-doc. At which point Anne volunteered that, “We would come visit you there.”