Executive Director

Prof. Dr. Karl-Wilhelm Koch


 Dr. Nina Gaßmann

+49 (0) 441 798-5475

+49 (0) 441 798-19 5475

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Study groups/Focus groups at the HWK

Study Group "The Future of Hearing"

Coordinator: Dr. Dorothe Poggel (HWK)


Prof. Dr. Georg Klump, University of Oldenburg
Prof. Dr. Dr. Birger Kollmeier, University of Oldenburg

Period: 2014 – 2016

The Study Group “The Future of Hearing” has been established in close collaboration with the Cluster of Excellence “Hearing4All”. This cluster, coordinated by Prof. Dr. Dr. Birger Kollmeier, has the goal to develop an etiology-based individualized treatment for patients with hearing deficits. To reach this goal, Hearing4all combines neurophysiological, psychophysical, and modelling studies to provide for a better understanding of the sensory deficits that will lead to a better treatment.

The Study Group “The Future of Hearing” helps to pursue this goal by assembling consortia for workshops each focused on a specific topic. It is a dynamic Study Group with special emphasis of three different research topics during the funding period, each represented by renowned scientists who are former Fellows of the HWK (see below).
The Study Group at the HWK will host one workshop per year. These workshops will focus on the discussion of unsolved key research questions and provide the agenda for advancing our knowledge in hearing research. A series of talks by leaders in the specific fields (including up to four invited international speakers) will provide the basis for the discussions. The audience contributing to the discussions will include a number of early stage researchers from the cluster of excellence Hearing4all. In addition to setting the stage for the future research, the workshop will thus provide a component of training of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.

Focal topic in 2014: Sound Localization

Represented by: Prof. Dr. Daniel Tollin, University of Colorado, former HWK-Fellow

Workshop “Stretch it, morph it, bend it, break it: Insights into the mechanisms of sound localization from normal, developmental, comparative, computational and hearing impaired studies”
June 23-24, 2014

Organizers: Prof. Dr. Georg Klump and Prof. Dr. Daniel Tollin

The ability to accurately localize sounds is critical for normal communication in everyday environments (e.g., classrooms).  Knowing where sounds of interest, such as speech, are coming from helps us to focus on those sounds and effectively ignore competing sounds (i.e., noise).  While sound localization and verbal communication in noisy reverberant environments is quite effortless in normal hearing listeners, this crucial ability becomes compromised in listeners with hearing loss, listeners that use hearing aids and cochlear implants, and in developing children with temporary and mild hearing impairments.  Additionally, sound localization abilities vary considerably across the animal kingdom.  Yet despite over a century of study we still don't know exactly how even normal hearing people/animals localize the sources of sounds from a neurophysiological perspective, and this lack of knowledge limits our ability to provide effective solutions for hearing impaired listeners.  One possible way to overcome this knowledge gap may be to consider how natural and unnatural perturbations affect sound localization behavior and the underlying anatomical and physiological mechanisms.  If we can determine how the auditory system is altered by systematically perturbing it in some way then we might be able to more precisely determine how the normal auditory system functions, which may in turn yield clues how to most effectively treat impaired auditory systems. Towards this goal, the 2014 Sound Localization Workshop explored several different ways that sound localization systems have been perturbed, from normal hearing in complex environments, developmental studies (‘stretch it’), deprivation studies (‘bend it’), studies of hearing-impaired subjects (‘break it’, cochlear implants and hearing aids), across-species comparative studies (‘morph it’) and computational studies. 
Through this Workshop we hope to begin to provide answers to several questions including: What is the current state of the field of sound localization?  What do we know and what do we not yet know?  What are the controversial and disputed issues? A goal of this Workshop is to identify the large gaps in our knowledge regarding the mechanisms of sound localization. 

International speakers: John Middlebrooks (University of California-Irvine), Catherine Carr (University of Maryland, former HWK Fellow), Steve Colburn (Boston University, former HWK Fellow), Andrew Brown (University of Colorado).

Oldenburg speakers: Birger Kollmeier, Georg Klump, Volker Hohmann, Steven van den Par, Mathias Dietz, Rainer Beutelmann

Focal topic in 2015: Hearing Devices

Represented by: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Laback, Austrian Academy of Sciences, former HWK-Fellow

Workshop “Binaural Factors and Compensation Schemes in Hearing Impairment”
June 21 -24, 2015

Organizers: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Laback and Prof. Dr. Dr. Birger Kollmeier

In the second year of the study group, the focus will be on research on the mechanisms and ecological advantages of binaural hearing, on respective consequences of hearing impairment and cochlear-implant hearing, and on the development of strategies for future hearing devices to compensate for deficits in binaural hearing.
The workshop will focus on perceptual/ psychophysical aspects as well as on signal processing and physiological aspects of hearing devices. The goals of the workshop are:

  • to identify key problems in perceiving binaural cues in impaired hearing, combining psychophysical and physiological evidence. While focusing on peripheral hearing impairment, the role of central auditory processing will also be considered
  • to identify major technical limitations with current hearing systems (hearing aids, cochlear implants) in transmitting binaural information
  • develop strategies to bundle international research efforts towards solving the key problems.

Focus Group "Optical Imaging in Neurosensory Science"

Coordination: Dr. Dorothe Poggel, HWK

Petra Groß, Karin Dedek, Beate Grünberg, Christoph Lienau, Jens Christoffers, Arndt Meyer, Petra Bolte, Henrik Mouritsen, Ulrike Janssen-Bienhold, Karl-Wilhelm Koch, Christine Köppl, and Hans Gerd Nothwang - Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Herman Offerhaus - Optical Sciences Group, University of Twente, The Netherlands
Carsten Fallnich - Optische Technologien, Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster
Sonja Pyott - University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands
Kathrin Thedieck - European Medical School (EMS), Universities of Groningen and Oldenburg

Duration:  01. November 2016 bis 31. Oktober 2019/ 01. November 2016 – 31. October 2019

The working principle of the building blocks of life is one of the great questions that drive scientists of different disciplines alike. These fundamental questions are where biologists, chemists, and physicists meet and discuss. Examples of wide-ranging and interdisciplinary questions that we would like to develop into specific research question as a starting point for bi- and multilateral projects are:

  •  How can photoreceptors “see” single photons?
  •  How can the hair cells of the inner ear transmit sound with microsecond precision?
  •  How are the multi-molecular complexes of gap junctions regulated?
  •  How can the olfactory system distinguish between thousands of different smells?
  •  How can birds detect small changes in the earth magnetic field to orient themselves during   their migratory flight?
  •  How does the molecular machinery of the inner ear enable our ability to hear?
  •  Which specific brain regions are involved in the hearing processes in the auditory brainstem?
  •  Which protein-protein interaction partners are the basis for the above mentioned and for other mechanisms?
  •  At the same time, there is a wide variety of analytic tools and, in particular, optical imaging methodology, available. Examples of the optical imaging techniques that are already available or that are currently under  investigation include:
  •  Conventional and in particular home-built laser scanning confocal microscopes
  •  Synthesis of novel and tailor-made fluorescent molecules
  •  Light sheet microscopy
  •  Coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) or stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy
  •  Stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy
  •  Scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM).
  •  Ultrafast spectroscopy

Bringing together the disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics holds a chance to discover truly new findings about the nature of life. Examples are the potential role of quantum effects and quantum coherences in the molecular biology of some sensory systems (e.g. magnetoreception in birds), and the molecular composition and regulation of electrical synapses.

Essentially the goal is to work out where we could apply which optical microscopy method. We aspire bridging the gap between our departments and to develop and apply new optical methods and techniques in order to answer prevailing biological questions. The goal of the Study Group is to establish bi- and multilateral co-operations, within which we apply new non-invasive, non-bleaching, and sub-diffraction-limit optical imaging techniques to highly sensitive neurobiological samples.

Planned Activities:

1. Kick-off meeting in combination with the DFG RTG (Graduiertenkolleg) “Molecular Basis of Sensory Biology”: November 2 – 4, 2016
2. Half-year workshop: One day at the HWK, after month 6
3. Interim workshops: one day each at the HWK, after month 12 and after month 1
4. Final study group workshop/ International Symposium with integrated spring school for PhDs on (nano-)optical microscopy in sensory systems


  1.  Identification of research questions and approaching these questions in joint projects
  2.  Publications in peer-reviewed journals written jointly by two or more groups within the study group
  3.  Strengthening of the cooperation between neuroscientists within the European Medical School (EMS) and the regional universities
  4.  Institutionalization of a network of young female scientists in optical imaging and neuroscience
  5.  Internationalization of the DFG RTG “Molecular Basis of Sensory Biology” and the RTG of the state of Lower  Saxony “Nano-Energy Research” by establishing contacts, e. g., during joint workshops and symposia.

(Changed: 2020-11-16)