PD Dr. Bernhard Gaese

Lecturer and Groupleader

Auditor​y Physiology and Cognition Lab

We are interested in the neural basis of auditory perception with an emphasis on modulating influences and behavioral context. Hearing is an active process shaped by the interaction of bottom-up processing of auditory information with top-down influences that depend on earlier experience and behavioral context. The methods for studying the link between sensation, perception, and elicited behavior are also used to characterize auditory dysfunctions (e.g. tinnitus, hidden hearing loss) following acoustic overstimulation.


An important part of attentional focusing is the automatic orienting towards sensory stimuli of behavioral relevance. Novel acoustic stimuli elicit stronger responses than frequently occurring signals in the acoustic background. Stimulus-specific neuronal adaptation is one of the neural mechanisms presumably underlying novelty detection in the auditory system. We are investigating neuronal adaptation in the auditory cortex (von der Behrens et al., 2009; Klein et al., 2014) and in the auditory thalamus (Bäuerle et al., 2011) of small rodents. Possible neuronal mechanisms are investigated by manipulating the corticothalamic feedback loop. More peripheral stimulus-specific influences might involve the efferent auditory pathway (Althen et al., 2012).
Many important signals such as animal communication sounds or human speech are actually segmented sequences of acoustic signals such as frequency and amplitude modulations (Altmann and Gaese, 2014). The perception of these signals is not just be a step-by-step processing of separate parts, but depends on interactions between neighboring signals (Altmann et al., 2011). We study such context-dependent sensory processing in human subjects by looking at the influence of different pre-tones on FM-direction discrimination tasks. We found clear frequency-dependent interactions over time (up to 1 – 2 sec) and across a broad frequency-range (up to 2 oct). Non-invasive brain activity recording (MEG) revealed a strong involvement of higher auditory cortical areas.
Hearing is a highly sensitive, in most vertebrate species omnidirectional sense well suited for eliciting fast reactions in potentially dangerous situations. Accordingly, the acoustic startle reaction in response to a sudden, loud noise is well developed in many animals (Gaese et al., 2009). This response can be modulated by pre-pulses occurring shortly before the startle stimulus, depending on timing and spectral components (Steube et al., 2016). We are investigating the neuronal basis of pre-pulse inhibition in rodents, focusing on midbrain structures.
The sensitive hearing organ is highly susceptible to acoustic overstimulation. A thereby induced acoustic trauma can finally lead to different auditory dysfunctions such as hyperacusis, tinnitus or hidden hearing loss. These pathologies are co-occurring with activity changes at different levels of the auditory pathway (Nowotny et al., 2011; Kiefer et al., 2015). Current investigations are looking at hidden hearing loss and changes in the activity pattern at the midbrain level.


This work was supported by research grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and Jürgen Manchot Stiftung.


Kiefer, L.; Koch, L.; Merdan-Desik, M.; Gaese, B.H.; Nowotny, M. (2022):
Comparing the electrophysiological effects of traumatic noise exposure between rodents.
Journal of Neurophysiology, 127(2): 452-462.
Koch, L.; Gaese, B.H.; Nowotny, M., (2021):
Strain comparison in rats differentiates strain-specific from more general correlates of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.
ournal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 23: 59–73.
Steube, N.; Nowotny, M.; Pilz, P. K.; Gaese, B. H., (2016):
Dependence of the Startle Response on Temporal and Spectral Characteristics of Acoustic Modulatory Influences in Rats and Gerbils.
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10: 133.
Kiefer, L.; Schauen, A.; Abendroth, S.; Gaese, B. H.; Nowotny, M., (2015):
Variation in acoustic overstimulation changes tinnitus characteristics.
Neuroscience, 310: 176-187.
Klein, C.; von der Behrens, W.; Gaese, B. H., (2014):
Simulus-Specific Adaptation in Field Potentials and neuronal Responses to Frequency-Modulated Tones in the primary Auditory Cortex.
Brain Topography, 27: 599-610.

Altmann, C. F.; Gaese, B. H., (2014):
Representationof frequency-modulated souds in the human brain.

Hearing Research, 307: 74-85


Riegel, A.-K.; Gaese B. H., (2013):
Rat auditory cortical functioning and different aspects of performance in frequency discrimination tasks.
10th Göttingen Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society: T18-2B

Betz, S.; Gaese B. H., (2013):
Regularity-dependent changes in stimulus-specific adaptation in the auditory cortex.
10th Göttingen Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society: T18-1B

Althen, H.; Wittekindt, A.; Gaese, B. H.; Kössl, M.; Abel, C., (2012):
Effect of contralateral pure tone stimulation on distortion emissions suggests a frequency specific functioning of the efferent cochlear control.
Journal of Neurophysiology, 107 (7): 1962-1969

Altmann, C. F.; Klein, K.; Heinemann, L. V.; Wibral, M.; Gaese, B. H.; Kaiser, J., (2011):
Repetition of complex frequency-modulated sweeps enhances neuromagnetic responses in the human auditory cortex.
Hearing Research, 282 (1-2): 216-224

Nowotny, M.; Remus, M.; Kössl, M.; Gaese, B.H., (2011):
Characterization of the Perceived Sound of Traum-Induced Tinnitus in Gerbils.
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 130 (5): 2827-2834.

Lenz, J.; Fiedler, W.; Caprano, T.; Friedrichs, W.; Gaese, B. H.; Wikelski, M.; Böhning-Gaese, K., (2011):
Seed-dispersal distributions by trumpeter hornbills in fragmented landscapes.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278 (1716): 2257-2264.

Bäuerle, P.; von der Behrens, W.; Kössl, M.; Gaese, B. H., (2011):
Stimulus-specific adaptation in the gerbil primary auditory thalamus is the result of a fast frequency-specific habituation and is regulated by the corticofugal system.
The Journal of Neuroscience, 31 (26): 9708-9722. 


Nowotny M.; Remus M.; Kössl M.; Gaese B. H., (2011):
Trauma-induced tinnitus in gerbils centers around the induction frequency.
Santi PA (ed.) Abstracts of the 34th Annual Midwinter Research Meeting., Association for Research in Otolaryngology.# 188

Remus M.; Gaese B.; Kössl M.; Nowotny M., (2011):
Trauma-induced tinnitus in gerbils centers around the induction frequency.
8th Göttingen Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society. # T17-8C.

Heinemann, L. V.; Rahm, B.; Kaiser, J.; Gaese, B. H.; Altmann, C.F., (2010):
Repetition enhancement for frequency-modulated but not unmodulated sounds: A human MEG study.
Plos One, 5 (12): e15548.

Lenz, J., Fiedler, W., Caprano, T., Friedrichs, W., Gaese, B.H., Wikelski, M. and Böhning-Gaese, K. (2010):
Seed-dispersal distributions by Trumpeter Hornbills in fragmented landscapes.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278: 1716.


Gaese, B. H.; Heinrich, A., (2010):
Auditory Interactions in FM Direction Discrimination in Humans.
Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol. Abs.: 991

Gaese, B.H., (2010):
Neuronale Grundlagen von Interaktionen beim Hören.
13. Jahrestagung Deutsche Gesellschaft für Audiologie

Lenz, J.; Fiedler, W.; Caprano, T.; Friedrichs, W.; Gaese, B. H.; Wikelski, M.; Böhning-Gaese, K., (2010):
Long-distance seed dispersal by Trumpeter Hornbills in a fragmented landscape.
5th International Frugivory and Seed Dispersal Symposium, Montpellier, France

von der Behrens, W.; Bäuerle, P.; Kössl, M.; Gaese, B. H., (2009):
Correlating Stimulus-Specific Adaptation of Cortical Neurons and Local Field Potentials in the Awake Rat.
Journal of Neuroscience, 29 (44): 13837-13849

Gaese, B. H.; Nowotny, M.; Pilz, P. K. D., (2009):
Acoustic startle and prepulse inhibition in the Mongolian gerbil.
Physiology & Behavior, 98 (4): 460-466.

Wittekindt, A.. Gaese, B. H., Kössl, M., (2009):
Influence of contralateral acoustic stimulation on the quadratic distortion product f2-f1 in humans.
Hearing Research, 247 (1): 27-33.


Althen, H.; Wittekindt, A.; Abel, C.; Gaese, B. H.; Kössl, M., (2009):
Contralateral sound alters the f2-f1 distortion product otoacoustic emission - Frequency specificity and impact of primary tone level.
Proceedings of the 8th Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society: T17-4B.

Gaese, B. H.; Nowotny, M.; Pilz, P. K. D., (2009):
Acoustic startle response in the wild-type and domesticated Mongolian gerbil.
Proceedings of the 8th Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society: T18-6B.

Eckrich, T.; Foeller, E.; Stuermer, I. W.; Gaese, B. H.; Kössl, M., (2008):
Strain-dependence of age-related cochlear hearing loss in wild and domesticated Mongolian gerbils.
Hearing Research, 235 (1-2): 72-79.


von der Behrens, W.; Gaese, B. H., (2008):
Intracortical Auditory Evekod Potentials to Frequency Deviants in an Oddball Paradigm in the Awake Rat Auditory Cortex.
Assoc Res Otolaryngol Abs: 904.


von der Behrens, W.; Kössl, M.; Gaese, B. H., (2007):
Neuronal Adaptation to Pure Tone Stimuli in the Awake Rat Auditory Cortex.
Neuroforum 07 (1): T19-13A.

von der Behrens, W.; Kössl, M.; Gaese, B. H., (2007):
Parameters Influencing Neuronal Adaptation to Pure Tone Stimuli in the Awake Rat Auditory Cortex.
Assoc Res Otolaryngol Abs: 405.

Gaese, B. H.; King, I.; Felsheim, C.; Ostwald, J.; von der Behrens, W., (2006):
Discrimination of direction in fast frequency-modulated tones by rats.
Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology 7 (1): 48-58.


Gaese, B. H.; Felsheim, C.; King, I.; von der Behrens, W.; Ostwald, J., (2006):
Efficiency versus precision of adaptive threshold estimation in animal psychoacoustics: Evidence from auditory discrimination in rats.
Assoc Res Otolaryngol Abs: 756.

Wagner, H.; Gaese, B. H., (2005):
Can we understand the action of brains in natural environments?
van Hemmen, L. & Sejnowski, T.J. (eds.): 23 Problems in Systems Neuroscience. Oxford University Press, Oxford.


Isheim, D.; Gaese, B. H.; Kössl, M., (2005):
Representation of temporally structured acoustic stimuli in gerbil auditory cortical neurons: Influences of repetition rate and sound intensity.
Assoc Res Otolaryngol Abs: 345.

Isheim, D.; Gaese, B. H.; Kössl, M., (2005):
Temporal processing of modulated acoustic stimuli in gerbil primary auditory cortex.
Neuroforum, 5 (1): 103 A

von der Behrens, W.; Gaese, B. H., (2005):
Investigating the influence of spatial attention on the processing of frequency-modulated tones in the rat.
Neuroforum, 5 (1): 103 B.

Gaese, B. H.; Ostwald, J., (2003):
Complexity and temporal dynamics of frequency coding in the awake rat auditory cortex.
Eurpean Journal of Neuroscience, 18 (9): 2638-2652.

Gaese, B.; Wagner, H., (2002):
Precognitive and cognitive elements in sound localization.
Zoology, 105 (4): 329-339.

Gaese, B. H.; Ostwald. J., (2001):
Anesthesia changes frequency tuning of neurons in the rat primary auditory cortex.
Journal of Neurophysiology, 86 (2): 1062-1066.

Johnen, A.; Wagner, H.; Gaese, B. H., (2001):
Spatial attention modulates sound localization in barn owls.
Journal of Neurophysiology, 85 (2): 1009-1012.

Gaese, B. H., (2001):
Population coding in the auditory cortex.
Progress in Brain Research, 130: 221-230.


PD Dr. Bernhard Gaese

Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main
Institute for Cellbiology and Neuroscience

AK Neurobiology and Biological Sensors

Campus Riedberg
Biologicum, building part A, 3rd floor
Max-von Laue-Straße 13
60438 Frankfurt am Main

Room:  3.117
Email:   gaese(at)bio.uni-frankfurt.de
Phone: +49 69 / 798-42061