Professor Walter Marcotti

WalterProfessor of Sensory Neuroscience
Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator
Department of Biomedical Science
The University of Sheffield
Firth Court, Western Bank
Sheffield S10 2TN
United Kingdom

Room: B1 221 Alfred Denny building
Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 1098

Centre for Sensory Neuroscience
Hearing Research Group CMIAD Logo

Brief career history

  • 2012 - present: Professor of Sensory Neuroscience
  • 2006 - present: Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Sheffield, UK.
  • 2004 - 2005: Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Sussex, UK.
  • 2001 - 2004: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sussex, UK.
  • 1997 - 2000: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bristol, UK.
  • 1994 - 1997: PhD, University of Pavia, Italy.
  • 1989 - 1992: University Degree in Biological Science, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.

Research interests

  • Molecular and physiological mechanisms controlling the functional maturation of the auditory system.
  • Mechanoelectrical transduction at the hair cell stereocilia
  • Signal processing at ribbon synapses
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Mechanisms underlying different forms of hearing loss and deafness

Hearing Research Group

Professional activities

  • Reviewing editor for Journal of Physiology
  • BBSRC Core panel member – Panel A
  • Grant reviewer for UK/EU Research Councils and Charities
  • Reviewer for many leading scientific journals

Awards and prizes

  • Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator (2014)
  • Sharpey-Schafer Lecture and Prize (2011) – Physiological Society, Oxford.
  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship (2004), The Royal Society, UK.

Full publications


Auditory neuroscience and Deafness Sensory transduction Synaptic transmission

Sensory organs and the neural networks responsible for processing sensory information are supremely well adapted for detecting input from the external environment. Their challenge is to maximize sensitivity and fidelity over a wide dynamic range. The sensory receptors of the mammalian auditory system, the inner hair cells (IHCs), do this with unparalleled temporal precision (kHz range). We know little about the molecular and physiological mechanisms controlling the functional maturation of the auditory system or signal processing at the primary auditory synapses, the IHC ribbon synapses. Crucial to this work, is the need of near-physiological in vitro and the development of in vivo experimental models.

My laboratory is uniquely suited for this task because it is the only one in the world that routinely uses near-physiological conditions for in vitro mammalian cochlear physiology and performs in-vivo electrophysiology from the zebrafish.  How biological systems orchestrate their development and how complex signals are processed by mature neuronal networks are major challenges in the quest to understand human biology and disease.

The auditory system provides an ideal model with which to address these questions, primarily because it involves a highly ordered array of a very small number of sensory cells with well-defined neuronal circuitry. It is also a key priority for human health because hearing loss affects more than 360 million people worldwide (WHO 2013), a number that will increase with the aging population.

Figure 1




Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules


  • BMS335 Sensory Neuroscience (Co-ordinator)
  • Level 3 Practical and Dissertation Modules

Masters (MSc):

  • BMS6335 Sensory Neuroscience (Co-ordinator)

Selected publications

Journal articles