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About me

Associate Professor and University Lecturer at Karolinska Intitutet.

I am a neurophysiologist specializing in sensory systems, in particular hearing and balance. My research focus on how communication sounds arise in the brain.

I am also a senior lecturer at the audiology program where I teach medical audiology and neuroscience.


MSc in Biology, Linköpings Universitetet, Linköping, Sweden

PhD in Neurobiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping, Sweden

Postdoctoral training, Max-Planck Institute for Neurobiology and Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany

Research description

The Neural Basis for Auditory Temporal Processing

Whether to hear simple sounds, such as a tone, or perceive more complex meaningful sound patterns, such as human speech, the ear has to extract the spectro-temporal components and convey the signals to the brain where they are further processed with respect to different acoustic cues. However, we still lack an understanding of how the brain can extract the most basic physical parameters, such as amplitude fluctuations and sound gaps from complex segmented acoustic signals. Our research explores how the first central processing stations of the auditory system extract the course temporal structure from the acoustic scene, which is important for communication processing.

Current projects in our laboratory are focused on the Superior Paraolivary Nucleus (SPON), a prominent nucleus in the superior olivary complex in the mammalian auditory brainstem. SPON neurons exhibit great sensitivity in signaling temporal cues with spiking responses that are extremely precise compared to other auditory nuclei. Our group has recently demonstrated that SPON neurons are tuned to respond to recurring sound features, such as periodically driven rhythm and pitch. In addition, SPON neurons are sensitive to singular features like abrupt starts and stops or gaps in acoustic stimuli. Our working hypothesis is that the SPON is extracting temporal information contained in natural sounds, and particularly communication signals and that it is an early locus in a "communication pathway".

Our technical approaches combine electrophysiological, anatomical, molecular and behavioural methods to shed light on the SPON. We also make use of transgenic mouse models to target specific inputs to the SPON. Through the combined use of these techniques, and collaboration with mathematicians and neuroethologists, we anticipate to be able to both explore and define the specific role of the SPON for hearing and communication perception.

Selected publications

Development of on-off spiking in superior paraolivary nucleus neurons of the mouse.
Felix R, Vonderschen K, Berrebi A, Magnusson A
J. Neurophysiol. 2013 Jun;109(11):2691-704

Sound rhythms are encoded by postinhibitory rebound spiking in the superior paraolivary nucleus.
Felix R, Fridberger A, Leijon S, Berrebi A, Magnusson A
J. Neurosci. 2011 Aug;31(35):12566-78

Sensitivity of noisy neurons to coincident inputs.
Rossant C, Leijon S, Magnusson A, Brette R
J. Neurosci. 2011 Nov;31(47):17193-206

Retrograde GABA signaling adjusts sound localization by balancing excitation and inhibition in the brainstem.
Magnusson A, Park T, Pecka M, Grothe B, Koch U
Neuron 2008 Jul;59(1):125-37

Maturation of glycinergic inhibition in the gerbil medial superior olive after hearing onset.
Magnusson A, Kapfer C, Grothe B, Koch U
J. Physiol. (Lond.) 2005 Oct;568(Pt 2):497-512

Academic honours, awards and prizes

Karolinska Institutet: Assistent Professorship, 2013-
Vetenskapsrådet: Assistant Professorship, 2009
Svenska Sällskapet för Medicinsk Forskning: 2 year grant for postdoctoral studies, 2006
Karolinska Institutet: 2 year grant for postdoctoral positions, 2005
Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung: 1.5 year grant for postdoctoral studies, 2003
Vetenskapsrådet: 2 year grant for postdoctoral studies, 2003
Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, 1 year scholarship 1997

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