M. Christian Brown, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Associate Professor of Otolaryngology

Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Senior Scientist

Research Summary

Research Area Affiliations

Research Summary

Dr. Brown's research investigates the descending neural systems in the auditory pathway. Although their functions are poorly understood, these systems allow higher centers in the brain to control the activity of lower centers. Studies are focused on the olivocochlear system, which consists of several groups of brainstem neurons that control activity in the cochlea and the cochlear nucleus.  The laboratory also studies motoneurons that innervate the middle-ear muscles and whose action regulates sound transmission through the middle ear.  Together, these systems reduce the effects of noise masking and provides protection from the damage caused by high-level sound.

A second major research area is improving the auditory brainstem implant (ABI). The ABI is a neural prosthesis that restores hearing in deaf individuals that are not eligible for the cochlear implant. However, the ABI is not as successful as the cochlear implant because users do not understand speech as well. Research in this area develops improved methods for electrical stimulation and the potential for optogenetic stimulation in a next-generation ABI.

Select Publications

Medial olivocochlear reflex interneurons are located in the posteroventral cochlear nucleus. de Venecia RK, Liberman MC, Guinan JJ, Jr. Brown MC.  (2005) J. Comp. Neurol. 487:345-360.

Commissural axons of the mouse cochlear nucleus. Brown MC, Drottar M, Benson TE, Darrow KN. (2013) J. Comp. Neurol. 521:1683-1696.

Ultrastructure of spines and associated terminals on brainstem neurons controlling auditory input. Brown, MC, Lee DJ, Benson TE.  (2013) Brain Res. 1515:1-10.  [Image from this publication used for cover photo of the issue published June 21, 2013].

Identification of inputs to olivocochlear neurons using transneuronal labeling with pseudorabies virus. Brown, MC, Mukerji, S, Drottar, M, Windsor, AM, Lee, DJ. (2013) J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol. 14:703-717. [Image from this publication used for cover photo of the issue published October, 2013]. 

Auditory responses to electric and infrared neural stimulation of the rat cochlear nucleus. Verma RU, Guex A, Hancock KE, Durakovic N, McKay CM, Brown MC, Lee DJ (2014). Hear. Res. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.heares.2014.01.008.

Single-unit labeling of medial olivocochlear neurons: The cochlear frequency map for efferent axons. Brown, MC (2014)  J. Neurophysiol. In  Press.

View a complete list of publications on pubmed.gov »

View a complete list of publications on Google Scholar »



Ph.D. Physiological Acoustics, University of Michigan

Postgraduate Training

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Auditory Physiology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Professional Memberships

Association for Research in Otolaryngology

Awards and Honors

F.V. Hunt Research Fellowship, Acoustical Society of America

Advisory Boards

Study Sections, National Institutes of Health


Neural Coding and Perception, Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program, HMS/MIT
Systems Neuroscience, Brain and Cognitive Sciences Program, MIT
Neural Basis of Vision and Audition, Brain and Cognitive Sciences Program, MIT