R. Keith Duncan, Ph.D.

Michigan Neuroscience Institute Affiliate
Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Faculty Mentor, Neuroscience Graduate Program

5323 Medical Science Unit I
1150 W. Medical Center Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5616



Dr. Duncan began his academic career in auditory physiology as an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech University by generating one of the first finite-element models of sensory cells in the inner ear. These studies ignited interests in the interplay between molecular structure and function of excitable cells in the inner ear. Following completion of his M.S. degree at Virginia Tech (1993), Dr. Duncan went on to complete his doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Jim Saunders (1999) and postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins University with Dr. Paul Fuchs (2003). This training laid the foundation for his current work in molecular physiology at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Duncan is an associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and an active member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program.  His lab seeks to understand the early stages of sound processing in the cochlea in order to develop the means to restore hearing due to injury or genetic anomalies.

Areas of Interest

Dr. Duncan is interested in the early stages of the transformation of sound in the cochlea. His lab's overall goal is to understand the molecular physiology of sensory cells in the ear and the nerves that innervate them. The lab approaches the study of these excitable cells in three interrelated areas: ion channel structure-functiondevelopment and maturation, and trauma and regeneration.

The onset of hearing is marked by a tightly orchestrated chain of events, beginning with fate specification in development and crescendoing to the mature hearing organ. Several active and interrelated projects weave back and forth between development and regeneration, molecular structure, and physiological function. The Duncan Lab leverages collaborative efforts at U-M and beyond to employ a wide range of experimental techniques, spanning neuroscience, cell biology, stem cell therapy, in vitro and in vivo physiology, and tissue engineering.

Honors & Awards

  • Marcia and Ron Rubin Grant in Auditory Science, National Organization for Hearing Research
  • Faculty Recognition Award for Outstanding Research Mentorship, Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, University of Michigan
  • Faculty Outstanding Service Recognition Award, Neuroscience Program, University of Michigan

Published Articles or Reviews

  • Hocevar SE, Liu L, Duncan RK. Matrigel is required for efficient differentiation of isolated, stem cell-derived otic vesicles into inner ear organoids. Stem Cell Res 2021 May;53:102295.
  • Schaefer SA, Higashi AY, Loomis B, Schrepfer T, Wan G, Corfas G, Dressler GR, Duncan RK. From otic induction to hair cell production: Pax2EGFP cell line illuminates key stages of development in mouse inner ear organoid model. Stem Cells Dev 2018 Feb 15;27(4):237-251
  • Crumling MA, King KA, Duncan RK. Cyclodextrins and iatrogenic hearing loss: New drugs with significant risk. Front Cell Neurosci. 2017 Nov 8;11:355
  • Hackelberg S, Tuck SJ, He L, Rastogi A, White C, Liu L, Prieskorn DM, Miller RJ, Chan C, Loomis BR, Corey JM, Miller JM, Duncan RK. Nanofibrous scaffolds for the guidance of stem cell-derived neurons for auditory nerve replacement. PLoS One 2017 Jul 3;12(7):e0180427

Web Sites