The Science of Sound

Visualization project aims to help the deaf hear.

Charles Finley, a research associate professor in the Univeristy of North Carolina School of Medicine, leads a team that uses high performance computing and advanced visualization tools to improve the design and application of cochlear implants. These implants can restore hearing in people with profound hearing losses enough to restore functional speech understanding of speech and other sounds. A receiver on the exterior of the skull collects sound and passes electric impulses to the implant, which generates electric impulses to stimulate nerve cells in the inner ear.

As a RENCI Faculty Fellow, Finley worked with the RENCI visualization team at RENCI’s UNC Chapel Hill engagement center, using simulation and visualization to improve the effectiveness of cochlear implants. Visualization and simulation were used to develop patient-specific models that determine the best positioning of electrode contacts in the implant in order to take advantage of the patient’s functioning neurons. The models also will provide insight into the electrical stimulation process that occurs in the cochlea as a result of implants, which could impact the design and fitting of future implant devices.

Visualizations done early during the collaboration with Finley helped discover bugs and anomalies in the data sets. As the project progressed, visualizations helped to understand how the positioning of the implant probe affects the resulting electrical field, and thus affects how well the patient is able to hear.

Data Visualization: David Borland and Eric Knisley, RENCI
Data simulation: Charles Finley, UNC School of Medicine, and Mark Reed, RENCI/UNC Chapel Hill.

More information:
RENCI Cochlear Implant project:
Charles Finley:

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