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Ryan Yoder has been in IPFW’s Department of Psychology since 2010. As a postdoctorate, he found that mice, like humans, detect or sense the pull of gravity with their otolith organs, part of the vestibular system in our ears that controls our balance, sense of motion, and sense of location and direction. These otolith organs send out signals that can be misinterpreted in some situations, such as when a person travels to a zero-gravity environment like outer space. (For more information about and pictures of the vestibular system, see this NASA webpage.)

Currently, Yoder studies genetically modified mice that have a defective vestibular system. He is especially interested in analyzing how these mice that are unable to detect or sense gravity’s pull have a difficult time navigating their environment. In humans, rare conditions like benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) result from a defective vestibular system.

Unfortunately, psychologists and medical personnel have few treatment and rehabilitation options at present, but many trial studies are currently being conducted. Yoder’s research helps further our understanding of the vestibular system and how a disabled vestibular system affects individuals. He recently received a National Institutes of Health grant to continue his research and fund his undergraduate research assistants’ pay checks.

We look forward to hearing more about Yoder’s growing research as he continues to make an impact on the academic community within IPFW’s College of Arts and Sciences. You can see Yoder’s current courses and some of his selected publications on his psychology webpage. He was also highlighted in the Department of Psychology’s 2011 newsletter.