Professor Walter Marcotti

Walter MarcottiProfessor of Sensory Neuroscience
Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator
Department of Biomedical Science
Centre for Sensory Neuroscience
Alfred Denny Building (B1 221)
University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK


Career history

  • 2012 - present: Professor of Sensory Neuroscience
  • 2006 - present: Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Sheffield, UK.
  • 2004 - 2005: Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Sussex, UK.
  • 2001 - 2004: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sussex, UK.
  • 1997 - 2000: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bristol, UK.
  • 1994 - 1997: PhD, University of Pavia, Italy.
  • 1989 - 1992: University Degree in Biological Science, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.

Research interests

  • Molecular and physiological mechanisms controlling the functional maturation of the auditory system.
  • Mechanoelectrical transduction at the hair cell stereocilia
  • Signal processing at ribbon synapses
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Mechanisms underlying different forms of hearing loss and deafness

My research group is part of the Centre for Sensory Neuroscience and the Centre for Membrane Interactions and Dynamics (CMIAD).

Awards and prizes

  • Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator (2014)
  • Sharpey-Schafer Lecture and Prize (2011) – Physiological Society, Oxford.
  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship (2004), The Royal Society, UK.

External activities

  • Reviewing editor for Journal of Physiology
  • BBSRC Core panel member – Panel A
  • Grant reviewer for UK/EU Research Councils and Charities
  • Reviewer for many leading scientific journals

Current grants funding


Selected Publications (since 2014)

Corns, L. F., Johnson, S. L., Kros, C. J., & Marcotti, W. (2014).
Calcium entry into stereocilia drives adaptation of the mechanoelectrical transducer current of mammalian cochlear hair cells.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(41), 14918-14923.

Corns, L. F., Johnson, S. L., Kros, C. J., & Marcotti, W. (2016).
Tmc1 Point Mutation Affects Ca2+ Sensitivity and Block by Dihydrostreptomycin of the Mechanoelectrical Transducer Current of Mouse Outer Hair Cells.
Journal of Neuroscience, 36(2), 336-349.

Full publications list at PubMed

Research Overview

Auditory neuroscience and Deafness Sensory transduction Synaptic transmission

Sensory organs and the neural networks responsible for processing sensory information are supremely well adapted for detecting input from the external environment. Their challenge is to maximize sensitivity and fidelity over a wide dynamic range. The sensory receptors of the mammalian auditory system, the inner hair cells (IHCs), do this with unparalleled temporal precision (kHz range). We know little about the molecular and physiological mechanisms controlling the functional maturation of the auditory system or signal processing at the primary auditory synapses, the IHC ribbon synapses. Crucial to this work, is the need of near-physiological in vitro and the development of in vivo experimental models.

My laboratory is uniquely suited for this task because it is the only one in the world that routinely uses near-physiological conditions for in vitro mammalian cochlear physiology and performs in-vivo electrophysiology from the zebrafish.  How biological systems orchestrate their development and how complex signals are processed by mature neuronal networks are major challenges in the quest to understand human biology and disease.

The auditory system provides an ideal model with which to address these questions, primarily because it involves a highly ordered array of a very small number of sensory cells with well-defined neuronal circuitry. It is also a key priority for human health because hearing loss affects more than 360 million people worldwide (WHO 2013), a number that will increase with the aging population.

Figure 1