The Hugh Knowles Prize for Distinguished Achievement is awarded periodically to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to research or clinical practice in the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of hearing disorders. Nominations for the prize may be submitted at any time to Nina Kraus, chairman of the selection committee.

The 2023 Hugh Knowles Prize for Distinguished Achievement





Presented to
Peter Narins, Ph.D.
University of California
Brain Research Institute
on October 30, 2023


The Knowles Hearing Center honored Dr. Narins with a plaque and an award of $30,000. Dr. Narins delivered a lecture titled: High-end Audio: Neuroethology of Ultrasonic Communication in Amphibians.

Narins specializes in acoustic and seismic communication of animals, specifically amphibians and mammals. He is a trained electrical engineer, auditory physiologist and behavioral biologist, and leads in elucidating the role of background noise on the evolution of communication systems.

Peter Narins has carried out pioneering studies in auditory and seismic sensory neuroethology. He discovered the first example of sexual dimorphism in a vertebrate sensory system. Moreover, he demonstrated phase-locking in the auditory nerve of amphibians and used it to provide evidence for the extraordinary seismic sensitivity of the amphibian inner ear. Narins discovered that a highly territorial South American dendrobatid frog uses a combination of acoustic cues (advertisement calls) and visual signals (vocal-sac pulsations) to repel conspecific intruders. He developed and used robotics to demonstrate that aggressive behavior can be elicited only when both signals are presented simultaneously (temporal binding) and at particular spatial orientations (spatial binding). More recently, he discovered several Chinese torrent frogs produce and detect calls containing ultrasonic harmonics and that a distantly related Bornean frog communicates entirely in the ultrasonic range. These findings have drawn international acclaim. In an unprecedented study of seismic communication, Narins demonstrated that the functionally blind Namib golden mole relies solely on seismic cues to locate food sources. Narins’ original, groundbreaking field studies and correlated seismic and auditory physiological investigations profoundly altered our understanding of how animals perceive their world.

Past Recipients

2022 Barbara Canlon
2016 Christine Petit
2013 Robert Zatorre
2008 Brian C. J. Moore
2005 Peter Dallos
2000 A. James Hudspeth
1997 David M. Green
1995 David Kemp
1992 Josef J. Zwislocki

2022 Prize Selection Committee: Nina Kraus, Northwestern University, non-voting Chair; Barbara Canlon, Karolinska Institutet; Sarah Wooley, Columbia University; Robert Zatorre, McGill University; Donald Caspary, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine; Manual Malmierca, University of Salamanca; Peter Dallos, Emeritus, Northwestern University.