Dr Laura Corns

Dr Laura CornsAssociate University Teacher
Department of Biomedical Science
The University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield S10 2TN
United Kingdom

Room: C107 Addison building
Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 1092
Email: L.F.Corns@sheffield.ac.uk
Group: Hearing Research Group

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General

Brief career history

  • 2017–Present: Associate University Teacher
  • 2017-2018: Action on Hearing Loss Pauline Ashley Fellow
  • 2012-2017: Post-doctoral Research Associate, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield
  • 2009-2012: PhD, School of Biomedical Science, University of Leeds
  • 2005-2009: BSc (Hons) Human Physiology with a Year in Industry, University of Leeds.

Research interests

We study how nerves from the brain communicate with sensory hair cells in the inner ear. We are particularly interested in how this communication changes with age, what drives these changes and whether manipulating this communication can protect our ears from age-related hearing loss.

Hearing Research Group


Professional activities

  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the Physiological Society and Physiological Society Representative for the University of Sheffield
  • Member of the Association for Research into Otolaryngology and member of Travel Award Committee for Midwinter meetings
  • Active in various types of outreach work
  • Thesis mentor for students across the University of Sheffield

Full publications

Research

Do you find yourself asking people to speak louder or repeat what they have said? Or do you have an older relative that struggles to hear what you’re saying? Age-related hearing loss (ARHL), also known as presbycusis, is the most common health condition in the elderly. This progressive loss of hearing can have a huge effect on someone’s ability to communicate, especially in social situations, leaving people feeling isolated and even depressed. Given the ageing population, this condition is something that needs to be addressed. Currently, we have a poor understanding of the cellular changes that occur within the cochlea throughout the process of ageing and so our research aims to rectify this.

Using techniques such as electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry and two-photon imaging, we aim to understand how the communication between three cell types within the cochlea changes with age. These cell types are the sensory hair cells (also known as inner hair cells), the sensory neurons (also known as afferent neurons) and the motor neurons (also known as efferent neurons). The inner hair cells convert the mechanical energy of sound into electrical impulses which can be communicated with the afferent neurons. The afferent neurons in turn carry this information about sound to the brain. The information that the afferent neurons carries to the brain can be modulated by the efferent neurons; these are neurons that originate in the brain and project to the cochlea.

We know that the number of connections between the inner hair cells and the afferent neurons is reduced during ageing. There is also evidence suggesting that the efferent neurons stop communicating with the afferent neurons with age and instead start communicating directly the inner hair cells. We are interested in understanding these changes further by determining which changes occur first and what the molecular mechanisms are that underpin them.

Research 1

We believe that in understanding these changes better we can identify novel targets and pharmacological interventions that could enable us to manipulate these cells so that they maintain the same communication pattern as that found in a healthy cochlea, and therefore reduce ARHL.

Funding:

  • Action on Hearing Loss

Collaborators:

  • Professor Walter Marcotti University of Sheffield
  • Dr Mike Bowl – MRC Harwell, Oxford, UK
Teaching

At undergraduate level 1, I focus on teaching the fundamental principles of physiology and neuroscience, and introduce students to performing physiological recordings on human subjects. I also focus on teaching students about the sensory systems, from introducing these systems in level 1 to providing in-depth research based lectures that discuss the most current theories and experimental findings at level 3 and as part of the taught postgraduate courses.

I believe that is important for students to receive research-led teaching and practice current physiological techniques. In 2018, I developed a new in-vivo physiology practical for BMS242, where students study the autonomic system in Zebrafish.  

Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules

  • BMS109 Introduction to Biomedical Science, including Introduction to the Study of Organ Systems (practical co-ordinator)
  • BMS106 Pathobiology
  • BMS153 Neuroscience
  • BMS108 Physiology with Pharmacology (module co-ordinator)
  • BMS242 Advanced Physiology & Pharmacology Practicals (module co-ordinator)
  • BMS248 Neural circuits, behaviour and memory
  • BMS335 and BMS6335 Sensory Neuroscience

Other

  • BMS349 Extended Library Project

Selected publications

Journal articles

Chapters