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University of Pittsburgh



karl kandler

Karl Kandler, PhD

Karl Kandler, PhD
Director Auditory Research Group
Professor of Otolaryngology, Neurobiology, and Bioengineering
UPMC Endowed Chair for Auditory Development and Plasticity
Biomedical Science Tower 3
3501 Fifth Avenue Room 10016
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Phone: 412-624-8398

Training Opportunities

Trainees in Dr. Kandler's laboratory have the opportunity to engage in research projects addressing fundamental questions in the plasticity and development of neuronal circuits. Our lab focuses on the mechanisms by which developing auditory circuits become refined, how this is influenced or guided by spontaneous and experience-evoked activity, and how auditory circuits change with hearing impairments (hearing loss, tinnitus).

Our lab uses a variety of state-of-the-art electrophysiological, imaging, anatomical, and behavioral methods, which we applied to normal and genetically modified mice. Our auditory group provides a rich interdisciplinary environment and trainees participate in joint lab-meetings and frequently also engage in cooperative projects with other laboratories of the auditory group (Rubio-lab, Tzounopoulos-lab, Srivatsun lab).

For more information, please email



1990 -1993        PhD University of Tübingen, Germany, Advisor: Eckhard Friauf
1993 -1997        Postdoctoral fellow with Dr. L.C. Katz, HHMI and Duke University
1998 -2004        Assistant Professor, Department Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh

                       School of Medicine
2004 -2007        Associate Professor Department Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh

                       School of Medicine

2007 -2010        Associate Professor, Director of Auditory Research Group, Department

                       of Otolaryngology and Department of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh

                       School of Medicine

2006-present     Adjunct faculty, Department of Biology, Carnegie Mellon University                 

2010-present     Professor, Director of Auditory Research Group, Department of Otolaryngology                        and Department of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

2014-present     Professor, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson 

                       School of Engineering

2015-present     UPMC Endowed Chair for Auditory Development and Plasticity


Honors and Awards

1983-1988         Fellow of the German National Scholarship Foundation

                       (“Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes”)          

1994-1995         Feodor-Lynen-Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt - Stiftung

1999-2001         Alfred P. Sloan fellow

2000                 Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering

2008                 Chair, Gordon Research Conference "The Auditory System" 

2010-2012         Chair, NIH Auditory Research Section

2013                 Board of Scientific Counselors (ad hoc), National Institute on Deafness 

                       and other Communication Disorders

Research Interest

Development and Plasticity of Auditory Brainstem Circuits

Neuronal Mechanisms underlying Tinnitus

Research Summary

Fast and accurate processing of sound is crucial for hearing, including the localization of sound in space and the perception of language. In order to correctly process auditory information the brain depends on precisely organized neuronal circuits. To achieve the high organization that is present in the mature brain , developing auditory circuits undergo a number of structural and functional changes. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie this developmental reorganization and fine-tuning is important for understanding brain development and is crucial for understanding developmental disorders that are rooted in auditory dysfunction including developmental dyslexia and childhood tinnitus.

Dr. Kandler's laboratory investigates development plasticity of auditory circuits by studying the refinement of neuronal connections in the lateral superior olive (LSO), a nucleus which is involved in sound localization. To this end, Dr. Kandler’s team applies a variety of anatomical and physiological techniques to normal and genetically engineered mice. Current research focuses on the role of neuronal activity and early hearing experience in influencing brain connectivity and on the cellular mechanism by which specific patterns of neuronal activity are translated into specific patterns of connectivity.

Lab Members

Postdoctoral Fellows

Eva Bach, PhD

Will Hamlet, PhD

International Research Scholar

Xiuhui Ye (Catherine)

Research Associates

Brian Brockway
Hannah Roos

Graduate Students

Jongwon Lee

Medical Scientist Training Program

Joshua Sturm

Past Lab Members                            Current Position      

Catherine Weisz, PhD           Acting Chief, Section on Neurnal Circuitry, Intramural Research Program of the NIDCD

Jineta Banerjee, PhD            Postdoctoral Fellow, John Hopkins University, School of Medicine

Elisabet Garcia-Pino, PhD      Research Assistant Professor, Freie Universitaet, Berlin, Germany

Jason Castro, PhD               Assistant Professor, Bates College, Maine

Tuan Nguyen, PhD               Assistant Professor, College of NJ, New Jersey                  

David H. Chi, MD                 Assistant Professor, Dept. of Otolaryngology, U. of Pittsburgh

Amanda Clause, PhD            Postdoctoral Fellow, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, MA

Jihyun Noh, PhD                  Assistant Professor, Dankook University, South Korea   

Abigail Kalmbach, PhD           Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University, NY              

Deda Gillespie, PhD              Associate Professor, McMaster University, Canada         
Gunsoo Kim, PhD                 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, San Franciso

Hanmi Lee, PhD                   Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University, CA

Seung-Cheol Ahn, PhD         Associate Professor, Dankook University, Korea

Selected Publications

(for full list see here)

Sturm J, Nguyen TD, Kandler K (2014) Development of intrinsic connectivity in the central nucleus of the mouse inferior colliculus. J. Neuroscience, 34:15032-46

Clause A, Kim G, Sonntag M, Weisz CJC, Vetter DE, Rűbsamen D, Kandler K (2014) The precise temporal pattern of pre-hearing spontaneous activity is necessary for tonotopic map refinement. Neuron, 82:822-35

Nguyen TD, Wirblich C, Aizenman E, Schnell MJ, Strick PL, Kandler K. (2012) Targeted single-neuron infection with rabies virus for transneuronal multisynaptic tracing. J Neurosci Methods. 209:367-370.

Kim G, Kandler K. (2011) Paired recordings from distant inhibitory neuron pairs by a sequential scanning approach. J Neurosci Methods. 200:185-189.

Castro JB, Kandler K (2010) Changing tune in auditory cortex. Nature Neuroscience 13: 271-273.

Noh J, Seal RP, Garver JA, Edwards RH, Kandler K. (2010) Glutamate co-release at GABA/glycinergic synapses is crucial for the refinement of an inhibitory map. Nature Neuroscience 13: 232-328. (Recommended by Faculty 1000)

Aras M, Hara H, Hartnett K, Kandler K, Aizenman E (2009) PKC regulation of intracellular zinc mediates neuronal survival during preconditioning, J. Neurochemistry, 110:106-17. (Recommended by Faculty 1000)

Ene A, Kalmbach A, and Kandler K (2007) Metabotropic glutamate receptors in the lateral superior olive activate TRP-like channels: Age and experience-dependent regulation. J Neurophysiol. 97: 3365–3375.

Kandler K, Clause A, Noh J. (2009) Tonotopic reorganization of developing auditory brainstem circuits. Nature Neuroscience 12:711-717.

Hershfinkel M, Kandler K, Knoch ME, Dagan-Rabin M, Aras MA, Abramovitch-Dahan C, Sekler I, Aizenman E. (2009). Intracellular zinc inhibits KCC2 transporter activity. Nature Neuroscience 12:725-727.

Kullmann PHM and Kandler K (2008) Dendritic Ca2+ responses in neonatal LSO neurons elicited by glycinergic/GABAergic synapses and action potentials. Neuroscience, 12;154(1):338-45.

Seal RP, Akil O, Yi E, Weber CM, Grant L, Yoo J, Clause A, Kandler K, Noebels JL, Glowatzki E, Lustig LR, Edwards RH. (2008) Sensorineural deafness and seizures in mice lacking vesicular glutamate transporter 3. Neuron 57:263-75. (Selected by Faculty 1000)

Gillespie DC, Kim G, Kandler K (2005) Inhibitory synapses in the developing auditory system are glutamatergic. Nature Neuroscience 8: 332-338.
(Cover illustration; "News & Views" commentary, Nature Neuroscience 8:257-258)

Kandler, K and Thiels, E (2005) Flipping the switch from electrical to chemical communication. Nature Neuroscience 8:1633-1634.

Kim G and Kandler K (2003) Elimination and strengthening of inhibitory synapse during establishment of a tonotopic map. Nature Neuroscience. 6: 282-290.
(Commentary in Trends in Neuroscience, 26:456-457)

Kandler K, Katz LC, and Kauer JA (1998) Focal photolysis of caged glutamate reveals an entirely postsynaptic form of hippocampal long-term depression. Nature Neuroscience, 2: 119-123
(See also “News and Views” commentary in Nat. Neuroscience 1:89-90).