Development of a feline model for preclinical research of a new translabyrinthine auditory nerve implant

W. Mitchel Thomas, Steven A. Zuniga, Inderbir Sondh, Moritz Leber, Florian Solzbacher, Thomas Lenarz, Hubert H. Lim, David J. Warren, Loren Rieth, Meredith E. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cochlear implants are among the most successful neural prosthetic devices to date but exhibit poor frequency selectivity and the inability to consistently activate apical (low frequency) spiral ganglion neurons. These issues can limit hearing performance in many cochlear implant patients, especially for understanding speech in noisy environments and in perceiving or appreciating more complex inputs such as music and multiple talkers. For cochlear implants, electrical current must pass through the bony wall of the cochlea, leading to widespread activation of auditory nerve fibers. Cochlear implants also cannot be implanted in some individuals with an obstruction or severe malformations of the cochlea. Alternatively, intraneural stimulation delivered via an auditory nerve implant could provide direct contact with neural fibers and thus reduce unwanted current spread. More confined current during stimulation can increase selectivity of frequency fiber activation. Furthermore, devices such as the Utah Slanted Electrode Array can provide access to the full cross section of the auditory nerve, including low frequency fibers that are difficult to reach using a cochlear implant. However, further scientific and preclinical research of these Utah Slanted Electrode Array devices is limited by the lack of a chronic large animal model for the auditory nerve implant, especially one that leverages an appropriate surgical approach relevant for human translation. This paper presents a newly developed transbullar translabyrinthine surgical approach for implanting the auditory nerve implant into the cat auditory nerve. In our first of a series of studies, we demonstrate a surgical approach in non-recovery experiments that enables implantation of the auditory nerve implant into the auditory nerve, without damaging the device and enabling effective activation of the auditory nerve fibers, as measured by electrode impedances and electrically evoked auditory brainstem responses. These positive results motivate performing future chronic cat studies to assess the long-term stability and function of these auditory nerve implant devices, as well as development of novel stimulation strategies that can be translated to human patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1308663
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2024 Thomas, Zuniga, Sondh, Leber, Solzbacher, Lenarz, Lim, Warren, Rieth and Adams.


  • Utah electrode array
  • auditory nerve implant
  • auditory prostheses
  • cat
  • feline
  • nerve stimulation
  • preclinical model
  • translabyrinthine approach


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