Andrej Kral

Bio Andrej Kral studied general medicine in Bratislava, Slovakia (Comenius University, MD 1993, PhD 1998). His PhD was focused on computer models of neuronal networks to explore the process of auditory frequency discrimination. He subsequently moved to Germany (1995) to focus on neuroscience of cochlear implants and brain development in deafness at the Institute of Sensory Physiology, J.W.Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main (Prof. R. Klinke). There he was appointed associate professor of physiology (“Priv.-Doz.”) in 2002. From 2004 to 2009 he was Professor of Neurophysiology at the University of Hamburg. Since 2009 he has been Chaired Professor of Auditory Neuroscience at the Medical University Hannover and the director of research of the Otolaryngology clinics. Andrej Kral heads the Dept. of Experimental Otology. Since 2004 he has been Adjunct Professor of Neuroscience and Cognition at the University of Texas at Dallas, USA, and since 2018 Professor of Systems Neuroscience at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. He serves as chair of the PhD Program “Auditory Sciences” in Hannover. A. Kral is an elected member of the German National Academy of Science and of the international Collegium Oto-Rhino-Laryngologicum Amicitiae Sacrum (CORLAS).
A. Kral’s research interests include neuroscience of deafness, brain development, plasticity and cross-modal reorganization, technology of neuroprosthetics and cochlear implants. His research has been published, among others, in New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Lancet Neurology, Nature Neuroscience and Trends in Neuroscience, his cumulative IF exceeds 450. Andrej Kral gave more than 200 invited talks at international conferences and leading research institutions. Together with A.N.Popper and R.R.Fay he edited the volume on Deafness (vol. 47) of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research in 2013 and together with H. Maier and F. Aplin published an introductory textbook on neuroprosthetic devices (“Prostheses for the Brain”, 2021, Academic Press). His lab received funding from German Research Society (DFG), Common Scientific Conference Germany, National Institutes of Health (USA), National Science Foundation (USA), German Academic Exchange Service, European Union, State of Hamburg and State of Lower Saxony, Oticon Foundation and cochlear implant industry.

Summary Crossmodal plasticity is a textbook example of the ability of the brain to reorganize based on use. The congenitally deaf cat is a unique model that recapitulates many reorganization of the brain related to deafness, including critical periods, changes in brain connectivity and cross-modal reorganizations. Using this model it has been possible to study the neuronal mechanisms behind cross-modal plasticity in this extreme deprivation condition (complete and congenital). The data demonstrate a high areal specificity of the reorganization, a moderate anatomic substrate and correspondingly a limited electrophysiological substrate of cross-modal rewiring. The data are compatible with a mechanism exploiting pre-existing circuitry and top-down interactions. The data disprove the hypothesis that crossmodal reorganization is responsible for closing critical periods in deafness or that it interferes with cochlear implant therapy. In consequence crossmodal plasticity does not affect the neuronal preconditions for successful hearing restoration and given its dynamic and versatile nature. Crossmodal plasticity can be effectively exploited for improving clinical outcomes after neurosensory restoration.
Supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Exc 2177) and European Union (ITN Comm4Child)