The inner workings of the ear have been a mystery for decades. However, that’s all about to change thanks to the efforts of a team of researchers determined to shed some light on the hearing process.
Researchers from Stanford University and Texas A&M are working on mapping the tissues of the cochlea, the portion of the inner ear responsible for hearing. To map the cochlea, they used a technique known as optical coherence tomography (OCT) on animal models.
OCT is similar to ultrasound but generates very high-resolution images, along with terabytes of measurement data. This data must be processed and interpreted in order to ensure accurate images. With the aid of LabVIEW and a FlexRIO FPGA-based high-speed digitizer (PXIE-7966R with NI 5772), the team processed the data generated from measurements throughout the ear at a much faster rate. As a result, the research team drastically cut image processing time.
The technique produced high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the inner ear. This breakthrough may lead to new therapies for hearing loss, but they’re not stopping there. They’ve already developed a handheld prototype device for humans.
“With LabVIEW FPGA and FlexRIO, we can take a six-hour process and make it happen in a couple of minutes,” says Brian Applegate, associate professor at Texas A&M. “We will rely on this data-reducing equipment more and more as we move toward producing a volumetric image that enables us to see an entire sound wave move down the cochlea.”