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Vazifehkhahghaffari received a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Sharif Institute of Technology, Iran, and a doctorate in computational neuroscience from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. He is a postdoctoral research associate in the department of otolaryngology at Washington University in St. Louis. Vazifehkhahghaffari’s 2018 Emerging Research Grant is generously funded by The Children’s Hearing Institute.

While the cochlear implant (CI) allows access to sound for those with severe hearing loss, perceiving pitch and music and understanding speech in the presence of reverberation, multiple speakers, or background noise remains very limited. To improve the CI, it is important to understand how the implant affects neuronal (nerve cell) behavior in the inner ear by uncovering the properties of neuronal excitability. Neuronal excitability mainly depends on the movement of different ions through the cell membrane and is affected by components such as ionic currents and ion channels.

A more precise model of the auditory nerve combined with models of the CI electric field potential will help improve CI stimulation methods by understanding stimulus-response phenomena and their underlying biophysical mechanisms. An improved model will also help us better understand hearing loss mechanisms by detailing the anatomy and electrophysiology of inner ear sensory hair cells.

Although I started auditory research just a short time ago, I have extensive experience modeling neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and epilepsy. A “wow” moment for me was when I learned that another lab confirmed, via experimentation, my theoretical model of epilepsy, which had been derived from basic research. It convinced me of the importance of multidisciplinary research—models as well as experiments—to understand the mechanisms of neurological diseases.

As a kid I remember sitting on a park bench and thinking about how to create a model to predict the trembling of leaves in the breeze. That experience may be the cornerstone of my
interest in modeling the behavior of nature.

I was born in Iran and worked in several countries including Russia and Malaysia. My long family name is actually two parts, but for some reason they were put together in my passport. I often abbreviate it as V-Ghaffari.

Babak Vazifehkhahghaffari, Ph.D.’s grant is funded by HHF partner The Children’s Hearing Institute (CHI). We thank CHI for its generous support of innovative research focused on congenital and acquired childhood hearing loss and its causes, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

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