Ruth Anne Eatock


Department of Neurobiology

The University of Chicago
947 E. 58th St., MC0926
Chicago, IL 60637 

Office Phone: 773-702-9221                                                                    Lab Phone: 773-702-9228
Office/Lab: J251

Eatock Lab website


Research Summary

Sensory signaling by hair cells and neurons in the inner ear

The receptor cells of the inner ear - called hair cells after their conspicuous bundles of fine specialized microvilli - transduce sound and head motions into electrical signals, which they transmit across synapses to afferent neurons, which in turn carry the electrical signals from the inner ear to the brain. We study all three stages (transduction, transmission and spike generation), typically in excised semi-intact preparations of rodent vestibular organs.  The vestibular epithelia have a distinctive synapse between type I hair cells and primary afferent terminals: each hair cell releases glutamate-filled vesicles from many presynaptic ribbons onto a large calyceal ending of a primary afferent neuron.  The figure shows voltage signals evoked in the calyx by sinusoidal deflections of the hair bundle.  We investigate how the properties of specific ion channels shape the sensory signals. For example, both type I hair cells and calyces have large numbers of low-voltage-activated potassium channels.  These channels may expand the frequency range over which vestibular reflexes compensate head motions (Eatock and Songer 2011) and make afferent spike timing irregular (Kalluri et al. 2010).

Select Publications

Hurley KM, Gaboyard S, Zhong M, Price SD, Wooltorton JRA, Lysakowski A, Eatock RA (2006) M-like K+ currents in type I hair cells and calyx afferent endings of the developing rat utricle. J. Neurosci. 2006; 26:10253-69.

Kalluri R, Xue J, Eatock RA (2010) Ion channels set spike timing regularity of mammalian vestibular afferent neurons. J Neurophysiol. 2010;04:2034-2051 PMC2957450

Eatock RA, Songer JE (2011) Vestibular hair cells and afferents: Two channels for head motion signals. Annu Rev Neurosci 34:499-532

Lysakowski A, Gaboyard-Niay S, Calin-Jageman I, Chatlani S, Price SD, Eatock RA. Molecular microdomains in a sensory terminal, the vestibular calyx ending. J Neurosci 2011;31(27):10101-14. 

Songer JE, Eatock RA (2013) Tuning and timing in mammalian type I hair cells and calyceal synapses. J Neurosci. 2013;33:3706-3724