Daniel M. Merfeld, Ph.D.
|Title||Professor of Otology and Laryngology|
|Institution||Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary|
|Department||Otology and Laryngology|
|Address||Harvard Engineering & Applied Science|
Jenks Vestibular Phys. Lab. 421
243 Charles St
Boston MA 02114
||Whitaker Young Investigator, Biomedical Engineering Society|
2014||Affiliate Faculty, Harvard/MIT HST|
2014||Faculty, Harvard/MIT Speech & Hearing, Biosciences & Technology|
2014||Member, Faculty of Harvard Arts and Sciences|
2014||Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering|
2018||Member, NIH Sensorimotor Integration Study Section|
2014||Member, Experimental Brain Research Board of Co-Editors|
2017||Associate Editor, Journal of Neurophysiology|
I study our sense of equilibrium with a strong interest in understanding human perception using EEG and psychophysical methods as well as behavioral measures. I also use dynamic systems models to help gain insight into the complexities of multi-sensory integration involved in our equilibrium sense. I focus on both basic science and translational research.
Throughout my career, I have played a role in the education and training of (i) undergraduate students at MIT and Harvard, (ii) graduate students from Harvard and MIT, including Harvard/MIT HST and SHBT programs as well as (iii) both clinical and basic science post-doctoral research fellows.
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 reflexes.
Much of our basic science effort focuses on human 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.
Available: 07/28/14, Expires: 09/07/15
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.
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