EMBO molecular medicine
μLED‐based optical cochlear implants for spectrally selective activation of the auditory nerve
Dieter, A., Klein, E., Keppeler, D., Jablonski, L., Harczos, T., Hoch, G., ... & Moser, T.
cochlear implant, hearing restoration, micro-LED, neural coding, optogenetics
Electrical cochlear implants (eCIs) partially restore hearing and enable speech comprehension to more than half a million users, thereby re-connecting deaf patients to the auditory scene surrounding them. Yet, eCIs suffer from limited spectral selectivity, resulting from current spread around each electrode contact and causing poor speech recognition in the presence of background noise. Optogenetic stimulation of the auditory nerve might overcome this limitation as light can be conveniently confined in space. Here, we combined virus-mediated optogenetic manipulation of cochlear spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) and microsystems engineering to establish acute multi-channel optical cochlear implant (oCI) stimulation in adult Mongolian gerbils. oCIs based on 16 microscale thin-film light-emitting diodes (μLEDs) evoked tonotopic activation of the auditory pathway with high spectral selectivity and modest power requirements in hearing and deaf gerbils. These results prove the feasibility of μLED-based oCIs for spectrally selective activation of the auditory nerve.