Facilities within the Biomedical Research Unit
The National Institute for Health Research Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit (NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU) is situated in the centre of the city, next to but separate from Nottingham Audiology Services. We are well equipped for many different kinds of hearing assessments and provide a comfortable, welcoming and quiet environment for participants. Our testing suite includes two large sound-insulated booths, three quiet testing rooms and a dedicated, child-friendly room equipped for work with children and their families.
Our sound-insulated booths are fully equipped for clinical and experimental assessments of human hearing. We can assess different parts of the ear using high-frequency audiometry, tympanometry, and otoscopy assessments. We also have specialised equipment for conducting tests that are not part of routine audiology practice, such as characterising the psychoacoustic properties of tinnitus, measuring selective attention and working memory and general cognitive performance.
Some of our research programmes combine behavioural (performance) measures with physiological measures that capture the underlying pattern of brain activity. To do this we have several neuroimaging systems for measuring the brain’s response to sound, and other sensory stimuli, including a 64-channel electroencephalography (EEG) system. Doug Hartley and his team have a 24-channel near-infrared-spectroscopy system that is fully compatible with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This enables simultaneous data acquisition across both types of neuroimaging system.
Our facilities on the Internet
Not all of our studies require participants to visit the NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU. For some studies, it is possible to complete hearing assessments and questionnaires via the internet. Our interactive website has a secure client login area where participants can access individualised online hearing tests, questionnaires, auditory tasks and research-based listening games.
Facilities across the partnership
To support our research, NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU collaborate with our partner organisations who provide on-campus access to clinical research infrastructure and world-leading laboratory facilities.
Clinical research infrastructure
In 2011, the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust invested over £1 million to establish the Nottingham Health Science Partners. This brought together all Trust and University research, design and support services that were previously spread across Nottingham. The Centre hosts:
- Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust Research and Innovation
- Trent NIHR Comprehensive Local Research Network
- East Midlands NIHR Research Design Service
- Nottingham Clinical Trials Unit
- Research Pharmacy.
The Research Centre has transformed research support to investigators, improving the quality of trial design, facilitating NHS approvals and providing a strong platform for commercial partnership. It enables a seamless transition of projects from NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU to late-phase clinical studies.
Nottingham is also fortunate to host the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care – Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire (CLAHRC-NDL) whose remit includes facilitating research findings into practical benefits for clinical practice. NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU has strong reciprocal relationships with these organisations. Our researchers work closely with staff across this broad network and some of the senior managers play a role in NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU governance.
World-leading laboratory facilities
Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Imaging Centre
Professor Richard Bowtell and his team provide expertise in the application of brain imaging techniques in a broad range of areas.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is supported by two Philips scanners within the centre:
- a 3 Tesla Achieva MR scanner provides the most up-to-date hardware and software developments in MR imaging (e.g. 32-channel parallel head coil, and double-echo image acquisition) to enhance the fMRI contrast-to-noise ratio and enable reliable identification of auditory activity at multiple levels of the ascending auditory pathway
- a 7 Tesla scanner provides a UK national facility for high-field imaging with the ultimate in spatial precision and sensitivity.
- A magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanner, which measures magnetic fields across the brain using 275 sensors placed close to the surface of the head, provides information about when and where the activation is occurring in the brain. MEG and electroencephalography (EEG) measurements of brain activity complement those made by fMRI.
Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research (MRC IHR)
Professor Alan Palmer and his team have created a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities supporting a diverse range of hearing science.
- For neuroscience, the Institute has equipment for single- and multi-unit recordings, not only in the anesthetised, but also in the awake behaving, animal. The neuroscience lab also boasts cell-labelling and tracing techniques for anatomical mapping.
- For testing hearing in human subjects, there are seven sound-insulated rooms, a ring of 24 loudspeakers and a high-density electroencephalography (EEG) system, which is also fMRI compatible.
In particular NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU’s cochlear implantation programme is supported by dedicated facilities at the MRC IHR, including a bespoke sound system which simulates realistic listening in three-dimensional space. This unique set up is housed in an echo-free room within the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. By playing artificial reflections of the sound from loudspeakers we can simulate arbitrary rooms, and place the listener from one moment to another in a different room without even getting up from the chair. Recently, the facility has been extended to enable video projection and motion tracking technology for studying people’s ability to localise sounds in the environment.
Biomaterials-related Infection Group
Dr Roger Bayston and his team in the Division of Orthopaedic and Accident Surgery have expertise in antimicrobial biomaterials and antibiofilm strategies. They have been involved in numerous collaborative projects, including those establishing the role of biofilms in Otitis Media with Effusion (OME), and more recently investigating biodegradable antimicrobial biomaterials as a treatment for OME biofilms. Fully equipped microbiology laboratories support comprehensive bacterial culture methods, including anaerobic bacteria and biofilm culture. Light microscopy and tissue culture facilities are also available, with access to confocal microscopy in the school’s Advanced Microscopy Unit. More information can be found here.
Division of Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering
Kevin Shakesheff and his colleagues in the School of Pharmacy have collaborated on recent projects investigating antimicrobial biomaterials as a treatment for OME. The School is top-rated for research, with a full range of advanced drug delivery facilities including microparticle production, particle sizing, and strength testing. The School also contains facilities for high-performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, and scanning electron microscopy. More information can be found here.