Daniel Tollin, PhD

Daniel Tollin, PhD

Department of Physiology and Biophysics
University of Colorado School of Medicine

RC1 North Tower, P18-7107
Mail Stop 8307
Aurora, CO 80045

E-mail: daniel.tollin@cuanschutz.edu

Joint Appointment with Department of Otolaryngology

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Behavioral and physiological mechanisms of binaural and spatial hearing

Dr. Tollin with giant mechanical ears -- 850 x 900

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An increasing population, spanning infancy through elderly and of diverse etiology, experiences severe difficulty in binaural hearing tasks such as communicating in complex acoustic environments, despite having normal audiometric thresholds. Regardless of etiology, binaural hearing deficits represent a considerable detriment to quality of life.

Diagnosing binaural-hearing-specific deficits, however, remains a major clinical challenge, as no objective clinical measures exist to test for it, thus precluding early intervention and implementation of rehabilitation strategies. A potential way to surmount this barrier is to use non-invasive electrophysiological measures, or biomarkers. Over the past decade, my lab has explored how the auditory brainstem and binaural and spatial hearing behavior are altered by various pathologies, including early temporary conductive hearing loss, acoustic blast, Fragile X, aging, and synaptopathy. In each of these, we have explored how a particular objective biomarker, the binaural interaction component (BIC) of the auditory brainstem response, may be predictive of the impaired binaural processing.

To tackle these questions, my lab uses a multidisciplinary approach employing both experimental and theoretical techniques, including human and animal psychophysics, extracellular single and multi-electrode physiology, signal detection and information theory, systems identification techniques, acoustic transfer function measurement and modeling, digital filter design and estimation, acoustic signal design, and physiological systems modeling. My research has been funded by the NIH and Department of Defense for over 20 years.

Tollin Lab -- Figure 1

Fig. 1 Illustration of a frontal section through the brainstem showing the ascending pathways through the nuclei of the superior olivary complex that are believed to be responsible for encoding interaural level differences (ILDs).  Neurons of the lateral superior olive (LSO) receive bilateral inputs from both ears.  The input from the ipsilateral ear via the spherical bushy cells (SBCs) is excitatory (open symbols) but the input from the contralateral ear via the globular bushy cells (GBCs) of the contralateral anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) is inhibitory (filled symbols) due to the additional synapse in the ipsilateral medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB).  The interplay of the ipsilateral excitation and contralateral inhibition confers on LSO neurons sensitivity to ILDs.  LSO neurons send excitatory projections to the contralateral inferior colliculus (IC) and dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (DNLL) and inhibitory projections (not shown) to the ipsilateral IC and DNLL.  The color bar and shading indicates the tonotopic organization and shows that the neurons comprising the MNTB and LSO are sensitive to predominantly high frequency sounds.

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John Peacock, PhD

Research Associate


Carol Sammeth

Carol Sammeth

Research Associate


Kerry Walker

Kerry Walker

Research Associate


Monica Benson

Monica Benson

Graduate Student


No photo available

Zoe Owrutsky

Graduate Student


No photo available

Matt Sergison

PhD Student (Neuroscience)


No photo available

Sean Anderson, PhD




Tollin Lab members

PubMed search (Tollin D)​​

Basic Auditory Neuroscience

Thornton JL, Anbuhl KA and Tollin DJ (2021) Temporary unilateral hearing loss impairs spatial auditory information processing in neurons in the central auditory system, Front Neurosci. 2021 Nov 1;15:721922. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.721922

Peacock J, Mackey CA, Benson MA, Burton JA, Greene NT, Ramachandran R and Tollin DJ (2021) The binaural interaction component in Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta) eNeuro 6 December 2021, ENEURO.0402-21.2021; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0402-21.2021

Brown AD and Tollin DJ (2021). Effects of interaural decoherence on sensitivity to interaural level differences across frequency, Journal of the Acoustical Society 49(6):4630-4648.

Brown AD, Anbuhl KL, Gilmer JI and Tollin DJ (2019) Between-ear sound frequency disparity modulates a brainstem biomarker of binaural hearing, Journal of Neurophysiology, 122:1110-1122.

Brown AD, Benichoux V, Jones HG, Anbuhl KL and Tollin DJ (2018) Spatial variation in signal and sensory precision both constrain auditory acuity at high frequencies, Hearing Research 370:65-73.

Benichoux V, Ferber AT, Hunt SD, Hughes EG and Tollin DJ (2018) Across species ‘natural ablation’ reveals the brainstem source of a non-invasive biomarker of binaural hearing, Journal of Neuroscience, 38:1211-18.

Benichoux V and Tollin DJ (2018) These are not the neurons you are looking for. eLife Jul 27;7. pii: e39244.

Greene NT, Anbuhl KL, Ferber AT, DeGuzman M, Allen PD and Tollin DJ (2018) Spatial hearing ability of the pigmented guinea pig (Cavia porcellus): minimum audible angle and spatial release from masking in azimuth, Hearing Research 365:62-76.

Benichoux V, Brown AD, Anbuhl KL and Tollin DJ (2017) Representation of multidimensional stimuli: quantifying the most informative stimulus dimension from neural responses, Journal of Neuroscience, 37:7332-7346.

Brown, AD and Tollin DJ (2016) Slow temporal integration enables robust neural coding and perception of a cue to sound source location, Journal of Neuroscience 36:9908-9921.

Otolaryngology Research

Jenkins HA, Greene NT and Tollin DJ (2021) Mechanical stimulation of the round window membrane of the cochlea for hearing, Frontiers in Neurology, 14 December 2021 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2021.777010

Ashida G, Tollin DJ and Kretzberg J (2021). Robustness of neuronal tuning to binaural sound localization cues against age-related loss of inhibitory synaptic inputs, PLoS Computational Biology Jul 9;17(7):e1009130. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009130

Sammeth C, Greene NT, Brown AD and Tollin DJ (2020) Normative study of the binaural interaction component of the human auditory brainstem response as a function of interaural time differences, Ear and Hearing, 42(3):629-643

Banakis-Hartl RM, Brown AD, Benichoux V, Dondzillo A, Greene NT and Tollin DJ (2019) Establishing an Animal Model of Single-Sided Deafness in Chinchilla lanigera , Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery 161(6):1004-1011

Banakis-Hartl RM, Kaufmann K, Hansen, M and Tollin DJ (2019) Intracochlear Pressure Transients During Cochlear Implant Electrode Insertion: Effect of Micro-mechanical Control on Limiting Pressure Trauma, Otology & Neurotology, 40:736-744.

Peacock J, Alhussaini MA, Greene NT, Tollin DJ (2018) Intracochlear pressure in response to high intensity, low frequency sounds in chinchilla, Hearing Research 367:213-222.

Greene NT, Alhussaini MA, Easter J, Argo T, Walilko T and Tollin DJ (2018) Intracochlear pressure measurements during acoustic shock wave exposure, Hearing Research 365:149-164.

Banakis-Hartl RM, Greene NT, Jenkins HA, Cass SP and Tollin DJ (2018) Lateral semi-circular canal pressures during cochlear implant electrode insertion: A possible mechanism for postoperative vestibular loss, Otol Neurotol 39:755-764.

Farrell N, Banakis-Hartl RM, Benichoux V, Brown AD, Cass SP and Tollin DJ (20 17) Effects of time and level difference inputs to bilaterally placed bone-conduction systems on cochlear input, Otol Neurotol. 38:1476-1483.

Maxwell AK, Banakis-Hartl RM, Greene NT, Benichoux V, Mattingly JK, Cass SP and Tollin DJ (2017) Investigating vestibular blast injury: Semicircular canal pressure changes during high-intensity acoustic stimulation, Otol Neurotol. 38:1043-1051. [Dr. Anne Maxwell won the American Neurotology Nicholas Torok Vestibular Award for this submission]

Fellow, Acoustical Society of America

Fellow, American Otological Society (AOS)

Elected member of the Collegium Oto-Rhino-Laryngologicum Amicitiae Sacrum (CORLAS)