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Daniel M. Merfeld, Ph.D.

TitleProfessor of Otology and Laryngology
InstitutionMassachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
DepartmentOtology and Laryngology
AddressHarvard Engineering & Applied Science
Jenks Vestibular Phys. Lab. 421
243 Charles St
Boston MA 02114
Phone617/573-5595
Fax617/573-5596

 Biography 
 awards and honors
1995 - Whitaker Young Investigator
2000 - Affiliate Faculty
2000 - Faculty
2007 - Member
2012 - Fellow
2012 - 2018Member, Sensorimotor Integration Study Section
2012 - Member, Board of Co-Editors

 Overview 
 overview
I study vestibular function using various behavioral measures, including assays of balance, perception, and the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR). I also use dynamic systems models to help gain insight into the complexities of multi-sensory integration involved in our sense of spatial orientation. I focus on both basic science and translational research.

Presently, much of our translational effort focuses on the development of more sensitive and more specific diagnostic tests of vestibular function for patients suffering dizziness, imbalance, or vertigo. (See Valko et al, 2012 and Lewis/Priesol et al, 2011 citations below for some details.) This is significant because a substantial fraction of patients suffering dizziness, vertigo, and/or imbalance are difficult to diagnose using existing tests that focus on measurements of reflexive responses like the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR).

Much of our basic science effort focuses on human spatial orientation and perception with a strong interest in understanding the limits of human performance via the measurement of thresholds. We also perform basic science studies focused on understanding how the brain combines cues from many different sensory systems, sometimes referred to a multi-sensory integration with a keen interest in how the brain process ambiguous sensory cues like those provided by the otolith organs that provide both gravitational and acceleration cues.

Historically, we were the first lab to study vestibular implants to treat patients suffering severe bilateral vestibular loss and have a number of patents that have been licensed by a commercial entity intent on bring this device to market in the near future. We maintain significant research interests in this area.


 Mentoring 
 current student opportunities
Available: 09/01/13, Expires: 09/05/14

Recent studies have shown that reflexes and perception evoked by vestibular cues can utilize qualitatively different mechanisms; yet there is a paucity of knowledge regarding vestibular perception. This probably helps explain why large percentages of vestibular patients report perceptual deficits that are undiagnosed. A clinical goal for the research proposed herein is to establish precise efficient methods to quantify motion perception in general and, more specifically, to assay perceptual thresholds. To achieve these clinical goals, we propose patient testing alongside basic science studies. Specifically, one basic science goal is to determine thresholds for rotation, translation, and tilt as functions of frequency. Student would complete two or more of the following tasks: help design study, perform subject testing, help analyze data, and help present results.


 Bibliographic 
 selected publications
Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
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  1. Chaudhuri SE, Karmali F, Merfeld DM. Whole body motion-detection tasks can yield much lower thresholds than direction-recognition tasks: implications for the role of vibration. J Neurophysiol. 2013 Dec; 110(12):2764-72.
    View in: PubMed
  2. Lewis RF, Haburcakova C, Gong W, Lee D, Merfeld D. Electrical stimulation of semicircular canal afferents affects the perception of head orientation. J Neurosci. 2013 May 29; 33(22):9530-5.
    View in: PubMed
  3. Lewis RF, Nicoucar K, Gong W, Haburcakova C, Merfeld DM. Adaptation of vestibular tone studied with electrical stimulation of semicircular canal afferents. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2013 Jun; 14(3):331-40.
    View in: PubMed
  4. Hartmann M, Furrer S, Herzog MH, Merfeld DM, Mast FW. Self-motion perception training: thresholds improve in the light but not in the dark. Exp Brain Res. 2013 Apr; 226(2):231-40.
    View in: PubMed
  5. Chaudhuri SE, Merfeld DM. Signal detection theory and vestibular perception: III. Estimating unbiased fit parameters for psychometric functions. Exp Brain Res. 2013 Mar; 225(1):133-46.
    View in: PubMed
  6. Merfeld DM, Lewis RF. Replacing semicircular canal function with a vestibular implant. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2012 Oct; 20(5):386-92.
    View in: PubMed
  7. Valko Y, Lewis RF, Priesol AJ, Merfeld DM. Vestibular labyrinth contributions to human whole-body motion discrimination. J Neurosci. 2012 Sep 26; 32(39):13537-42.
    View in: PubMed
  8. Lim K, Merfeld DM. Signal detection theory and vestibular perception: II. Fitting perceptual thresholds as a function of frequency. Exp Brain Res. 2012 Oct; 222(3):303-20.
    View in: PubMed
  9. Lewis RF, Haburcakova C, Gong W, Karmali F, Merfeld DM. Spatial and temporal properties of eye movements produced by electrical stimulation of semicircular canal afferents. J Neurophysiol. 2012 Sep; 108(5):1511-20.
    View in: PubMed
  10. Karmali F, Merfeld DM. A distributed, dynamic, parallel computational model: the role of noise in velocity storage. J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jul; 108(2):390-405.
    View in: PubMed
  11. Digiovanna J, Carpaneto J, Micera S, Merfeld DM. Alignment of angular velocity sensors for a vestibular prosthesis. J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2012; 9:14.
    View in: PubMed
  12. Thompson LA, Haburcakova C, Gong W, Lee DJ, Wall C, Merfeld DM, Lewis RF. Responses evoked by a vestibular implant providing chronic stimulation. J Vestib Res. 2012; 22(1):11-5.
    View in: PubMed
  13. Haburcakova C, Lewis RF, Merfeld DM. Frequency dependence of vestibuloocular reflex thresholds. J Neurophysiol. 2012 Feb; 107(3):973-83.
    View in: PubMed
  14. Lewis RF, Priesol AJ, Nicoucar K, Lim K, Merfeld DM. Abnormal motion perception in vestibular migraine. Laryngoscope. 2011 May; 121(5):1124-5.
    View in: PubMed
  15. Rader AA, Oman CM, Merfeld DM. Perceived tilt and translation during variable-radius swing motion with congruent or conflicting visual and vestibular cues. Exp Brain Res. 2011 Apr; 210(2):173-84.
    View in: PubMed
  16. Merfeld DM. Signal detection theory and vestibular thresholds: I. Basic theory and practical considerations. Exp Brain Res. 2011 May; 210(3-4):389-405.
    View in: PubMed
  17. Poppendieck W, Hoffmann KP, Merfeld D, Guyot JP, Micera S. Ethical issues in the development of a vestibular prosthesis. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2011; 2011:2265-8.
    View in: PubMed
  18. Lewis RF, Priesol AJ, Nicoucar K, Lim K, Merfeld DM. Dynamic tilt thresholds are reduced in vestibular migraine. J Vestib Res. 2011; 21(6):323-30.
    View in: PubMed
  19. Lewis RF, Haburcakova C, Gong W, Lee D, Wall C, Thompson L, Merfeld DM. Vestibular prosthesis tested in rhesus monkeys. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2011; 2011:2277-9.
    View in: PubMed
  20. Saginaw MA, Gong W, Haburcakova C, Merfeld DM. Attenuation of eye movements evoked by a vestibular implant at the frequency of the baseline pulse rate. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2011 Oct; 58(10):2732-9.
    View in: PubMed
  21. Merfeld DM, Priesol A, Lee D, Lewis RF. Potential solutions to several vestibular challenges facing clinicians. J Vestib Res. 2010; 20(1):71-7.
    View in: PubMed
  22. Lewis RF, Haburcakova C, Gong W, Makary C, Merfeld DM. Vestibuloocular reflex adaptation investigated with chronic motion-modulated electrical stimulation of semicircular canal afferents. J Neurophysiol. 2010 Feb; 103(2):1066-79.
    View in: PubMed
  23. Rader AA, Oman CM, Merfeld DM. Motion perception during variable-radius swing motion in darkness. J Neurophysiol. 2009 Oct; 102(4):2232-44.
    View in: PubMed
  24. Gong W, Haburcakova C, Merfeld DM. Vestibulo-ocular responses evoked via bilateral electrical stimulation of the lateral semicircular canals. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2008 Nov; 55(11):2608-19.
    View in: PubMed
  25. Zupan LH, Merfeld DM. Interaural self-motion linear velocity thresholds are shifted by roll vection. Exp Brain Res. 2008 Dec; 191(4):505-11.
    View in: PubMed
  26. Lewis RF, Haburcakova C, Merfeld DM. Roll tilt psychophysics in rhesus monkeys during vestibular and visual stimulation. J Neurophysiol. 2008 Jul; 100(1):140-53.
    View in: PubMed
  27. Grabherr L, Nicoucar K, Mast FW, Merfeld DM. Vestibular thresholds for yaw rotation about an earth-vertical axis as a function of frequency. Exp Brain Res. 2008 Apr; 186(4):677-81.
    View in: PubMed
  28. Merfeld DM, Haburcakova C, Gong W, Lewis RF. Chronic vestibulo-ocular reflexes evoked by a vestibular prosthesis. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2007 Jun; 54(6 Pt 1):1005-15.
    View in: PubMed
  29. Merfeld DM, Gong W, Morrissey J, Saginaw M, Haburcakova C, Lewis RF. Acclimation to chronic constant-rate peripheral stimulation provided by a vestibular prosthesis. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2006 Nov; 53(11):2362-72.
    View in: PubMed
  30. Park S, Gianna-Poulin C, Black FO, Wood S, Merfeld DM. Roll rotation cues influence roll tilt perception assayed using a somatosensory technique. J Neurophysiol. 2006 Jul; 96(1):486-91.
    View in: PubMed
  31. Mast FW, Merfeld DM, Kosslyn SM. Visual mental imagery during caloric vestibular stimulation. Neuropsychologia. 2006; 44(1):101-9.
    View in: PubMed
  32. Zupan LH, Merfeld DM. An internal model of head kinematics predicts the influence of head orientation on reflexive eye movements. J Neural Eng. 2005 Sep; 2(3):S180-97.
    View in: PubMed
  33. Israƫl I, Crockett M, Zupan L, Merfeld D. Reproduction of ON-center and OFF-center self-rotations. Exp Brain Res. 2005 Jun; 163(4):540-6.
    View in: PubMed
  34. Lewis RF, Haburcakova C, Merfeld DM. Tilt psychophysics measured in nonhuman primates. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Apr; 1039:294-305.
    View in: PubMed
  35. Merfeld DM, Park S, Gianna-Poulin C, Black FO, Wood S. Vestibular perception and action employ qualitatively different mechanisms. I. Frequency response of VOR and perceptual responses during Translation and Tilt. J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jul; 94(1):186-98.
    View in: PubMed
  36. Merfeld DM, Park S, Gianna-Poulin C, Black FO, Wood S. Vestibular perception and action employ qualitatively different mechanisms. II. VOR and perceptual responses during combined Tilt&Translation. J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jul; 94(1):199-205.
    View in: PubMed
  37. Zupan LH, Merfeld DM. Human ocular torsion and perceived roll responses to linear acceleration. J Vestib Res. 2005; 15(4):173-83.
    View in: PubMed
  38. Peterka RJ, Gianna-Poulin CC, Zupan LH, Merfeld DM. Origin of orientation-dependent asymmetries in vestibulo-ocular reflexes evoked by caloric stimulation. J Neurophysiol. 2004 Oct; 92(4):2333-45.
    View in: PubMed
  39. Zupan LH, Park S, Merfeld DM. The nervous system uses internal models to achieve sensory integration. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2004; 6:4487-90.
    View in: PubMed
  40. Zupan LH, Merfeld DM. Neural processing of gravito-inertial cues in humans. IV. Influence of visual rotational cues during roll optokinetic stimuli. J Neurophysiol. 2003 Jan; 89(1):390-400.
    View in: PubMed
  41. Merfeld DM. Rotation otolith tilt-translation reinterpretation (ROTTR) hypothesis: a new hypothesis to explain neurovestibular spaceflight adaptation. J Vestib Res. 2003; 13(4-6):309-20.
    View in: PubMed
  42. Zupan LH, Merfeld DM, Darlot C. Using sensory weighting to model the influence of canal, otolith and visual cues on spatial orientation and eye movements. Biol Cybern. 2002 Mar; 86(3):209-30.
    View in: PubMed
  43. Gong W, Merfeld DM. System design and performance of a unilateral horizontal semicircular canal prosthesis. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2002 Feb; 49(2):175-81.
    View in: PubMed
  44. Merfeld DM, Zupan LH. Neural processing of gravitoinertial cues in humans. III. Modeling tilt and translation responses. J Neurophysiol. 2002 Feb; 87(2):819-33.
    View in: PubMed
  45. Lewis RF, Gong W, Ramsey M, Minor L, Boyle R, Merfeld DM. Vestibular adaptation studied with a prosthetic semicircular canal. J Vestib Res. 2002-2003; 12(2-3):87-94.
    View in: PubMed
  46. Wall C, Merfeld DM, Rauch SD, Black FO. Vestibular prostheses: the engineering and biomedical issues. J Vestib Res. 2002-2003; 12(2-3):95-113.
    View in: PubMed
  47. Angelaki DE, Wei M, Merfeld DM. Vestibular discrimination of gravity and translational acceleration. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Oct; 942:114-27.
    View in: PubMed
  48. Merfeld DM, Zupan LH, Gifford CA. Neural processing of gravito-inertial cues in humans. II. Influence of the semicircular canals during eccentric rotation. J Neurophysiol. 2001 Apr; 85(4):1648-60.
    View in: PubMed
  49. Zupan LH, Peterka RJ, Merfeld DM. Neural processing of gravito-inertial cues in humans. I. Influence of the semicircular canals following post-rotatory tilt. J Neurophysiol. 2000 Oct; 84(4):2001-15.
    View in: PubMed
  50. Angelaki DE, Merfeld DM, Hess BJ. Low-frequency otolith and semicircular canal interactions after canal inactivation. Exp Brain Res. 2000 Jun; 132(4):539-49.
    View in: PubMed
  51. Gong W, Merfeld DM. Prototype neural semicircular canal prosthesis using patterned electrical stimulation. Ann Biomed Eng. 2000 May; 28(5):572-81.
    View in: PubMed
  52. Merfeld DM, Zupan L, Peterka RJ. Humans use internal models to estimate gravity and linear acceleration. Nature. 1999 Apr 15; 398(6728):615-8.
    View in: PubMed
  53. Wall C, Merfeld DM, Zupan L. Effects of static orientation upon human optokinetic afternystagmus. Acta Otolaryngol. 1999 Jan; 119(1):16-23.
    View in: PubMed
  54. Merfeld DM, Black FO, Wade S. Clinical use of three-dimensional video measurements of eye movements. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1998 Mar; 118(3 Pt 2):S35-8.
    View in: PubMed
  55. Cordo P, Inglis JT, Verschueren S, Collins JJ, Merfeld DM, Rosenblum S, Buckley S, Moss F. Noise in human muscle spindles. Nature. 1996 Oct 31; 383(6603):769-70.
    View in: PubMed
  56. Merfeld DM, Polutchko KA, Schultz K. Perceptual responses to linear acceleration after spaceflight: human neurovestibular studies on SLS-2. J Appl Physiol. 1996 Jul; 81(1):58-68.
    View in: PubMed
  57. Merfeld DM, Teiwes W, Clarke AH, Scherer H, Young LR. The dynamic contributions of the otolith organs to human ocular torsion. Exp Brain Res. 1996 Jul; 110(2):315-21.
    View in: PubMed
  58. Merfeld DM. Effect of spaceflight on ability to sense and control roll tilt: human neurovestibular studies on SLS-2. J Appl Physiol. 1996 Jul; 81(1):50-7.
    View in: PubMed
  59. Merfeld DM. Vestibulo-ocular reflex of the squirrel monkey during eccentric rotation with centripetal acceleration along the naso-occipital axis. Brain Res Bull. 1996; 40(5-6):303-9.
    View in: PubMed
  60. Merfeld DM. Modeling the vestibulo-ocular reflex of the squirrel monkey during eccentric rotation and roll tilt. Exp Brain Res. 1995; 106(1):123-34.
    View in: PubMed
  61. Merfeld DM, Young LR. The vestibulo-ocular reflex of the squirrel monkey during eccentric rotation and roll tilt. Exp Brain Res. 1995; 106(1):111-22.
    View in: PubMed
  62. Merfeld DM. Modeling human vestibular responses during eccentric rotation and off vertical axis rotation. Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 1995; 520 Pt 2:354-9.
    View in: PubMed
  63. Shelhamer M, Merfeld DM, Mendoza JC. Effect of vergence on the gain of the linear vestibulo-ocular reflex. Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 1995; 520 Pt 1:72-6.
    View in: PubMed
  64. Merfeld DM, Christie JR, Young LR. Perceptual and eye movement responses elicited by linear acceleration following spaceflight. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1994 Nov; 65(11):1015-24.
    View in: PubMed
  65. Shelhamer M, Merfeld DM, Mendoza JC. Vergence can be controlled by audio feedback, and induces downward ocular deviation. Exp Brain Res. 1994; 101(1):169-72.
    View in: PubMed
  66. Merfeld DM, Young LR, Paige GD, Tomko DL. Three dimensional eye movements of squirrel monkeys following postrotatory tilt. J Vestib Res. 1993; 3(2):123-39.
    View in: PubMed
  67. Young LR, Oman CM, Merfeld D, Watt D, Roy S, DeLuca C, Balkwill D, Christie J, Groleau N, Jackson DK, et al. Spatial orientation and posture during and following weightlessness: human experiments on Spacelab Life Sciences 1. J Vestib Res. 1993; 3(3):231-9.
    View in: PubMed
  68. Merfeld DM, Young LR, Oman CM, Shelhamer MJ. A multidimensional model of the effect of gravity on the spatial orientation of the monkey. J Vestib Res. 1993; 3(2):141-61.
    View in: PubMed
  69. Merfeld DM, Young LR. Three-dimensional eye velocity measurement following postrotational tilt in the monkey. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1992 May 22; 656:783-94.
    View in: PubMed
  70. Arrott AP, Young LR, Merfeld DM. Perception of linear acceleration in weightlessness. Physiologist. 1991 Feb; 34(1 Suppl):S40-3.
    View in: PubMed
  71. Merfeld DM, Young LR, Tomko DL, Paige GD. Spatial orientation of VOR to combined vestibular stimuli in squirrel monkeys. Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 1991; 481:287-92.
    View in: PubMed
  72. Arrott AP, Young LR, Merfeld DM. Perception of linear acceleration in weightlessness. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1990 Apr; 61(4):319-26.
    View in: PubMed
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