From the jarring sound of a car horn to the enticing smell of a favorite meal, our senses help us navigate smoothly through day-to-day activities. Every sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch stems from a flurry of activity between brain cells. But what happens when the brain fails to process sensory information with ease? With recent advances in genetics and imaging technology, researchers hope to gain new insight into what goes wrong in disorders including eye disease, hearing loss, and persistent pain.
Ongoing studies are helping researchers identify genes that underlie everything from inherited forms of deafness and eye disease to those that influence taste. Scientists are studying how to replace nerve cells that help process sight and sound in an effort to help the millions worldwide with sensory loss. Researchers are also using modern imaging tools to study perception of sensory information and how it becomes distorted in disorders such as persistent pain.