Michael T. Roberts, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Faculty Member, Neuroscience Graduate Program

5424 Medical Science Unit 1
1150 West Medical Center Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5616


Dr. Michael Roberts received a B.A. in biology from The University of Chicago in 2000 and completed a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology at The University of Texas at Austin in 2005. As a postdoctoral fellow with Larry Trussell at the Vollum Institute in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Roberts studied how inhibitory interneurons regulate microcircuit operations in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. Then, as a postdoctoral fellow and research associate with Nace Golding at The University of Texas at Austin, he investigated mechanisms used by neurons in the medial superior olive to process sound localization cues.

Areas of Interest

The overall aim of the Roberts Laboratory is to establish a deep understanding of the cellular, synaptic and network mechanisms used by neural circuits in the auditory system to extract and encode important features of sounds.

The auditory system provides a number of distinct advantages for analyzing neural circuit function. First, the sensory input to the auditory system is well defined. Second, early computations are divided among highly specialized nuclei in the brainstem. These nuclei perform specific operations, such as determining the spatial source of sounds, that form the building blocks of higher-level auditory tasks like speech processing. Third, the outputs of these diverse brainstem circuits converge in the midbrain in the inferior colliculus (IC). This makes the IC an excellent system for examining how circuits manipulate and combine well-defined streams of information to generate higher order representations.

Our specific goal is to define the mechanistic underpinnings of computations performed by neural circuits in the IC. Powerful methods including in vitro and in vivo patch clamp electrophysiology, optogenetics, genetically engineered mice and viral transduction have opened exciting new avenues for circuit analysis. We are combining these approaches to address the following questions: What are the fundamental microcircuits of the IC and how do they function? How do microcircuits shape the receptive fields of IC neurons? How are IC microcircuits modified by hearing and communication disorders like tinnitus and autism, and how can these changes be reversed?

Published Articles or Reviews

  1. Franken TP, Roberts MT, Wei L, Golding NL, Joris PX. (2015) In vivo coincidence detection in mammalian sound localization generates phase delays. Nat Neurosci. 18:444-452.
  2. Roberts MT, Seeman SC, Golding NL. (2014) The relative contributions of MNTB and LNTB neurons to inhibition in the medial superior olive assessed through single and paired recordings. Front Neural Circuits. 8:49.
  3. Roberts MT*, Seeman SC*, Golding NL. (2013) A mechanistic understanding of the role of feedforward inhibition in the mammalian sound localization circuitry. Neuron. 78: 923-935.
         — Preview article in Neuron by CV Portfors and H von Gersdorff, p 755.
  4. van der Heijden M, Lorteije JA, Plauška A, Roberts MT, Golding NL, Borst JG. (2013) Directional hearing by linear summation of binaural inputs at the medial superior olive. Neuron. 78: 936-948.
  5. Roberts MT, Trussell LO. (2010) Molecular layer inhibitory interneurons provide feedforward and lateral inhibition in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. J Neurophysiol. 104: 2462-2473.
  6. Roberts MT, Bender KJ, Trussell LO. (2008) Fidelity of complex spike-mediated synaptic transmission between inhibitory interneurons. J Neurosci. 28: 9440-9450.

* Authors contributed equally

View additional publications on PubMed.

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