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Ngodup earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the State University of New York at Buffalo and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon Hearing Research Center, Oregon Health & Science University. A 2018 Emerging Research Grants scientist, Ngodup received the Les Paul Foundation Award for Tinnitus Research.

Neuron (nerve cell) hyperactivity is believed to lead to tinnitus, or experiencing ringing or buzzing in the ears without an external sound source. While many studies on hyperactivity have focused on the dorsal cochlear nucleus, an auditory processing region in the brainstem, very little attention has been given to the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN). This is surprising since the VCN is home to neurons that receive direct inputs from auditory nerve fibers, and the majority of VCN neurons convey excitatory (stimulating) signals to higher auditory regions.

One of the likely causes of hyperactivity is an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory (dampening) neuronal connections, or synapses. However, so far only a single inhibitory cell type, called D-Stellate, has been identified in the VCN. With the use of genetically modified mice, we now see that the diversity of inhibitory cell types and connections in the VCN is far richer than previously described.

The quantification of all inhibitory neurons in the VCN can be used to examine inhibition in typical vs. tinnitus models, especially after noise exposure. We want to understand how a loss of inhibition (less dampening) could lead to the hyperactivity associated with tinnitus in order to help prevent and treat tinnitus.

As a Tibetan, officially I am stateless, but I was born and raised in India. I have always been interested in science, biology in particular. I am fascinated by how very complicated and different organ systems in our body work together so efficiently. Science classes were especially fun-filled with hands-on learning through field trips and lab experiments, an active and highly engaging style of teaching that had a profound impact on my interest in science.

If I were not a researcher, I would be a science teacher. Actually, after earning my bachelor’s degree in biology and education, I taught biology to Tibetan monks in a Tibetan Buddhist monastic school in southern India.

I am the first scientist in the family—perhaps one of the first Tibetan neuroscientists in the exiled Tibetan community! I am working on a cookbook about traditional Tibetan dishes, a cuisine that reflects the lifestyle of Tibetans living at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. For instance, rice is a rare commodity so a dish like dre-si (sweet rice) is served mainly during special occasions like the Tibetan New Year.

Tenzin Ngodup, Ph.D., received the Les Paul Foundation Award for Tinnitus Research. We thank the Les Paul Foundation for its support of innovative research that will increase our understanding of the mechanisms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of tinnitus.

Click to download a PDF of Dr. Ngodup's Meet the Researcher profile.