Jennifer M. Groh

Fellow: Awarded 2009

Field of Study: Neuroscience

Competition: US & Canada

Website: http://www.duke.edu/~jmgroh

Jennifer M. Groh is interested in how the brain processes spatial information from different sensory systems. Much of her research concerns how the brain represents the locations of sounds via patterns of neural activity in the auditory pathway. She has investigated whether the brain uses an “analog” or “digital” code for sound location. In a digital-like code, information is conveyed by which neurons are active, so different neurons would signal different sound locations. In an analog code, the same neurons are active for most sound locations, but the level of activity varies with sound location.

Ms. Groh’s work also concerns how what we see influences what we hear. Her laboratory has demonstrated that neurons in auditory brain regions are sometimes responsive not just to what we hear but also to what direction we are looking and what visual stimuli we can see. These surprising findings challenge the prevailing assumption that the brain’s sensory pathways remain separate and distinct from each other at early stages, and suggest a mechanism for such multisensory interactions as lip-reading and ventriloquism (the capture of perceived sound location by a plausible nearby visual stimulus).

Jennifer Groh received her undergraduate degree in biology summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1988. She studied neuroscience at the University of Michigan (Master’s, 1990) and the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her Ph.D. in 1993 for her dissertation concerning how the brain translates auditory and somatosensory information into a frame of reference more akin to that used by the visual system. She then moved to Stanford University for postdoctoral research concerning how the brain’s sensory representations are interpreted by motor areas to produce behavior. She is presently a faculty member at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences at Duke University. She also holds appointments in the Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke.

In addition to the Guggenheim Fellowship, Jennifer Groh’s research has been supported by a variety of sources including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program, the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, the John Merck Scholars Program, the EJLB Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Whitehall Foundation, and the National Organization for Hearing Research.

During her fellowship year, she plans to write a book on spatial processing in the brain.