Maria Neimark Geffen, Ph.D.

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Professor of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery
Department: Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
Department of Otorhinolaryngology
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
5 Ravdin
3400 Spruce St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215.898.0782
Fax: 215.898.9994
Lab: 215.573.7691
A.B. (Molecular Biology)
Princeton University, 2001.
Ph.D. (Biophysics)
Harvard University, 2006.
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Description of Research Expertise

Dr. Geffen is a leader in the field of auditory neuroscience. She is interested in the way the brain encodes information about the world and how our perception is shaped by our emotional state and experience. She combines computational and biological approaches to study the mechanisms behind dynamic auditory perception, memory and learning.

Dr. Geffen first became interested in systems neuroscience through her undergraduate thesis under mentorship of John Hopfield at Princeton University, in which she explored the mechanics of whisking in rats. She studied texture encoding in the somatosensory system with Christopher Moore at MIT during her first two years of graduate school at Harvard. She completed her Ph.D. in the laboratory of Markus Meister at Harvard University, where she discovered a novel retinal circuit for processing moving images. After her Ph.D., she was a fellow at the Center for Physics and Biology at Rockefeller University, where she worked under mentorship of Dr. Marcelo Magnasco, exploring the dynamics of natural sounds.

Dr. Geffen has been directing the Laboratory for Auditory Coding at the University of Pennsylvania since 2010. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018. Dr. Geffen’s recent discoveries include: identifying a novel cell type that supports hearing of unexpected sounds; establishing the connection between emotional learning and sound perceptual acuity; and elucidating the neuronal code for representation of communication signals in the brain. Her scientific results are regularly published in well-recognized journals, including Nature Neuroscience, eLife and PLoS Biology. Her research accomplishments have been recognized with prestigious awards, including the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface, the Klingenstein Foundation Award in Neurosciences, the Human Frontiers in Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, the Auditory Neurophysiology Young Investigator Spotlight Award and the Kaufman Foundation New Initiative Grant. Her research is supported by multiple grants from the NIH, including NIDCD and the BRAIN Initiative, as well as by private and international foundations. She serves as a permanent member on an NIH review panel, and has served as the general chair and workshop director for multiple national and international meetings. She currently serves as a co-director of the Cajal Course in Computational Neuroscience, and an organizer of the E.A.R.S. seminar series. Dr. Geffen is a dedicated mentor and her trainees have won the Brain Research Foundation Young Investigator Award, multiple Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards from the NIH and the Saul Winegrad Award for Outstanding Dissertation.

For more information, please visit http://hosting.med.upenn.edu/hearing.

Selected Publications

Seay MJ, Natan RG, Geffen MN, Buonomano DV.: Differential Short-Term Plasticity of PV and SST Neurons Accounts for Adaptation and Facilitation of Cortical Neurons to Auditory Tones. J Neurosci 40(48): 9224-9235, Nov 2020.

Park Y, Geffen MN.: A circuit model of auditory cortex. PLoS Comput Biol 16(7): e1008016, Jul 2020.

Blackwell JM, Lesicko AM, Rao W, De Biasi M, Geffen MN.: Auditory cortex shapes sound responses in the inferior colliculus. Elife 9: e51890, Jan 2020.

Aizenberg M, Rolón-Martínez S, Pham T, Rao W, Haas JS, Geffen MN.: Projection from the Amygdala to the Thalamic Reticular Nucleus Amplifies Cortical Sound Responses. Cell Rep 28(3): 605-615, Jul 2019.

Gervain J, Geffen MN.: Efficient Neural Coding in Auditory and Speech Perception. Trends Neurosci 42(1): 56-65, Jan 2019.

Williams A, Geffen MN.: Birds of a different feather sing together. Nat Neurosci 22(9): 1381-1382, Sep 2019.

Briguglio JJ, Aizenberg M, Balasubramanian V, Geffen MN.: Cortical Neural Activity Predicts Sensory Acuity Under Optogenetic Manipulation. J Neurosci 38(8): 2094-2105, Feb 2018.

Natan RG, Briguglio JJ, Mwilambwo-Tshilobo L, Jones SI, Aizenberg M, Goldberg EM, Geffen MN: Complementary control of sensory adaptation by two types of cortical interneurons. ELife 4(13): 4, Oct 2015.

Mwilambwe-Tshilobo L, Davis AJ, Aizenberg M, Geffen MN: Selective Impairment in Frequency Discrimination in a Mouse Model of Tinnitus. PloS One 10(9): e0137749, Sep 2015.

Carruthers IM, Laplagne DA, Jaegle A, Briguglio JJ, Mwilambwe-Tshilobo L, Natan RG, Geffen MN: Emergence of invariant representation of vocalizations in the auditory cortex. J Neurophysiol 114(5): 2726-40, Nov 2015.

Aizenberg M, Mwilambwe-Tshilobo L, Briguglio JJ, Natan RG, Geffen MN: Bidirectional Regulation of Innate and Learned Behaviors That Rely on Frequency Discrimination by Cortical Inhibitory Neurons. PLoS Biol 13(12): e1002308, Dec 2015.

Gervain J, Werker JF, Black A, Geffen MN: The neural correlates of processing scale-invariant environmental sounds at birth. Neuroimage 133: 144-50, Jun 2016.

Blackwell JM, Taillefumier TO, Natan RG, Carruthers IM, Magnasco MO, Geffen MN: Stable encoding of sounds over a broad range of statistical parameters in the auditory cortex. Eur J Neurosci 43(6): 751–64, Mar 2016.

Natan, R.G., Rao, W., Geffen, M.N. : Cortical Interneurons Differentially Shape Frequency Tuning following Adaptation. Cell Reports 21(4): 878–890, Oct 2017.

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Last updated: 05/14/2024
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