Seminars and events

As part of the Bionics Institute 2014 Seminar Series, Professor Peter Seligman, a key member of the team that developed the
Melbourne/Cochlear multichannel cochlear implant and Bionics Institute biomedical engineer and mentor, gave a talk entitled
 "The path to a clinical cochlear implant".

To view the video and get an insight into the history of this life-changing device click here.


Seminars are held each week at the Bionics Institute and are open to the public. Registration is not required.

The seminars are held at the Institute, unless stated otherwise:

4-5pm each Friday

Bionics Institute

Level 1, 384-388 Albert Street

East Melbourne

20/05/2016 4:00 PM“Putting out the Garbage” in Parkinson’s Disease Dr Richard Peppard, Neurologist, St. Vincent’s Hospital
Abstract: Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition with the following cardinal symptoms: uncontrollable shaking (tremor), excessive muscle tone (rigidity), slowness in movement (bradykinesia), and impaired balance (postural instability). Present therapies such as deep brain stimulation alleviate these symptoms but do not cure the underlying condition. Here, we aim to outline new approaches to slow or reverse neurodegeneration and the role of functional neurosurgery.
Bio: Dr Richard Peppard is a movement disorders neurologist at the St. Vincent’s Hospital and a Honorary Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute. He has more than 25 years of experience treating all stages of Parkinson’s with a special interest in deep brain stimulation. In his practice, more than 50 patients are implanted with neurostimulators each year.
29/04/2016 4:00 PMIntellectual Property 101 and the Patent Analytics Hub  Dr Cameron Lutton
Abstract: IP Australia is a federal government agency that plays a key role in Australia’s innovation system.  IP Australia administers intellectual property (IP) rights in Australia consisting of patents, trademarks, designs and plant breeder rights. Registering IP rights provides innovators with legal framework to protect their ideas. Understanding IP and protecting it early can be very important when establishing products or services in the market. As well as administering the Australian IP rights system, IP Australia established the Patent Analytics Hub to help government agencies, Australian universities and public research sector agencies make the most of their intellectual property.  The Hub aids understanding of their technology areas, finding collaborators and boosting the commercial returns from research.  Patent analytics can extract useful insights from vast global patent databases, through the mining, visualisation and interpretation of data.
Panel Speakers
Dr Cameron Lutton
Research Manager – Patent Analytics Hub
Dr Cameron Lutton has a background in polymer chemistry and biomedical engineering.  Prior to joining IP Australia, he spent 10 years as a multidisciplinary researcher both in Australia and overseas working on implant design, drug delivery and novel polymers for tissue repair.  At IP Australia he gained experience as a senior examiner of patents in the medical devices area, before joining the Patent Analytics Hub as a research manager. Cameron not only brings deep technical scientific knowledge to the role, but also an understanding of the IP system from experience as an examiner and through commercialisation experience gained as an academic.
Amy Hunter
Research Manager – Patent Analytics Hub
Amy Hunter is a registered Patent and Trade Mark Attorney with fifteen years’ experience in intellectual property. As an attorney, she provided strategic management and business-focussed advice on patent portfolios to a range of clients from small manufacturing businesses to large multinational firms, both in Australia and overseas. Immediately prior to her role as research manager in the Patent Analytics Hub, Amy was a senior examiner in the areas of mechanical engineering, mining engineering and medical devices at IP Australia.
Cromwel Flores
Examiner of Patents – Medical & Mechanical Devices
Cromwel Flores is a patent examiner who has been with the Patent Office for 10 years.  He holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical/Computer Science) and a Bachelor of Science (Physiology) from Monash University.  Currently he examines patents from the biomedical and mechanical fields.
Emma Francis
Examiner of Patents – Medical and Mechanical Devices
Patent Analyst-Patent Analytics Hub
Emma Francis is a senior research analyst in the National Patent Analytics Hub in addition to her role as a patent examiner. She received her Master of Biomedical Engineering from the University of Melbourne in 2010. She also has a Bachelor of Systems Engineering with honours and a Bachelor of Computer Science, both from the ANU. She is passionate about big data and the promises that appropriate analysis of this information can provide. Data visualisation of patent statistics is her current focus, working mainly with Tableau Desktop.
Kalpana Narayan
Examiner of Patents – Medical and Mechanical Devices
Kalpana Narayan is a patent examiner working in the area of medical and mechanical devices.  She received a Bachelor of Electronic Engineering with Honours and a Masters of Biomedical Engineering from La Trobe University.  She has also undertaken postgraduate research at La Trobe University working on a novel method of diagnosing DVT before joining IP Australia.
Ariane LeGuen
Examiner of Patents – Medical Devices
Ariane Le Guen is a patent examiner in the medical devices area at IP Australia. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Science in 2008. She worked as a scientist in a diagnostics lab in Pathobiology in the Microbiology department for three years before acquiring her job at IP Australia.
15/04/2016 4:00 PMAn overview of US-funded neural device efforts and how proposals are reviewed Dr Michael Wolfson
Abstract: In a two-part talk, Dr Wolfson will describe the research portfolio he supports at DARPA and share his perspective on how proposals are reviewed by evaluators. His portfolio includes four research programs at DARPA: RE-NET, HAPTIX, ElectRx, and NESD. Each of these programs has been initiated to solve a specific bioengineering challenge and to demonstrate a new capability. Dr Wolfson will discuss the challenges, discoveries, and new insights gained over the development and execution of these 4-5 year, ~US$60M efforts. These programs encompass the entire spectrum of neural device development, from fundamental research into materials, tissue response, and psychophysics through demonstrations in human volunteers of complete systems and their new functional capabilities. These capabilities include restoration of complex motor control, naturalistic somatosensation, vision, and audition, and modulation of organ function.
In the second part of his talk, Dr Wolfson will provide a framework to help investigators understand the motivations and boundaries that guide reviewers of proposals. Specifically, he will cover review methods, evaluation criteria, and ascertaining the objective of a funding agency and the key requirements in any funding opportunity announcement. Dr Wolfson also will provide general advice to any grant-writer on how to improve the quality of submissions. This portion of the presentation is available for download at:
Bio: Michael B. Wolfson is a bioelectronics consultant, supporting organizations whose mission is to invest in foundational device research, development of new neurotechnologies, and translation into proof-of-principle demonstrations. He received a Sc.B. degree in electrical engineering from Brown University in 1995 and a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 2001. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and a member of the Society for Neuroscience.
From 2000 through 2009, Mike was involved in several ventures to develop optical MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) technologies. His experiences at three startups (Nayna Networks, Exajoule, and RedShift Systems) and one multinational corporation (Sharp Laboratories of America) led him to independent consulting (NovelSemi Solutions). From 2009 through 2013, he was a subject matter expert for System Planning Corporation, providing full-time support to the MEMS and neuro-technology programs in DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office. Since 2014, Mike has been an independent consultant supporting customers such as GlaxoSmithKline and DARPA's Biological Technologies Office. His research interests include non-traditional manufacturing technologies and the scalability of neural interfaces.
8/04/2016 4:00 PMFeasibility of a minimally invasive Endovascular Neural Interface for recording cortical activityDr Sam John
Abstract: Intracranial electrode arrays for recording and stimulating brain activity have facilitated major advances in the treatment of neurological conditions. Traditional arrays require direct implantation into the brain via open craniotomy. Invasive surgery is associated with inflammatory tissue responses and can reduce efficacy of stimulation and sensitivity of recording. There is a need for minimally invasive techniques that can record chronic neural activity.
We demonstrate the feasibility of a minimally invasive endovascular neural interface (ENI) that can record brain activity from within a cortical vein. The ENI was fabricated on intracranial stents that are presently used in stroke clot removal. The ENI was delivered into a superficial cortical vein overlying the motor cortex using contrast enhanced angiography and co-axial catheterization in sheep.
The ENI was successfully implanted in sheep and was able to record somatosensory evoked potentials for 190 days. Impedance changes show that incorporation of the ENI into the blood vessel wall occurs within 14 days of implantation and vessel lumen remained open for the duration of the study (190 days). The bandwidth of recording, was similar to an epidural array and marginally inferior to a subdural array. We show that an endovascular neural interface offers a method for safe implantation and chronic neural recordings.
Bio: Sam John is a research fellow in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne. He received his PhD in 2013 from La Trobe University while working on the Bionic eye project at the Bionics Institute. His present research is evaluating the efficacy of an endovascular neural interface that can record and stimulate the brain. He is also working on developing a lower limb brain computer interface that can assist with mobility in people affected by paralysis.
1/04/2016 4:00 PMExercise and physical activity for people with Parkinson's disease:  Challenges in clinical practice and research A/Prof Jennifer McGinley
Abstract: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common and disabling neurodegenerative condition that is rapidly rising in prevalence.  With medical advances, people with PD live an increasingly long lifespan, but experience difficulty with mobility, activities of daily living and societal participation.
Exercise limits disability progression; people who exercise regularly have lesser decline and better physical function, mobility and quality of life.  Despite these known benefits, most people with PD have sedentary lifestyles and limited adherence to ongoing exercise is a major challenge in lifelong management. 
Health behaviour change interventions can be developed to promote long term exercise and physical activity habits throughout life. Such interventions need to be guided by an understanding of factors associated with exercise and physical activity behaviour in Parkinson’s.  This seminar will present findings from a recent large study of Australians living with PD, and the factors that promote or limit ongoing engagement in a physically active lifestyle. Current challenges in conducting clinical trials of new interventions and implementation will be discussed.
Bio: Associate Professor Jenny McGinley is a physiotherapist and Deputy Head of the Physiotherapy Department, University of Melbourne, Australia.  Her research has focussed on the measurement and understanding of movement and function across the lifespan in healthy people and those with neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy and autism. She has a particular interest in gait outcome measures for clinical practice and research, as well as clinical trials of interventions to improve functional mobility. 
Her current research aims to understand how people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders can stay active during daily life, and the factors that influence regular physical activity
18/03/2016 4:00 AMInsights into neuropathology using speech Dr Adam Vogel
Abstract: Speech is a potent marker of brain function. It changes with the onset of neurological illness and it declines with disease progression. Certain transient conditions such as depression and fatigue also affect the quality of speech, making it a sensitive marker of central nervous system integrity.
In this context, speech can be used to track disease progression in degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or hereditary ataxia. Similarly, objective measures of speech can assist in monitoring performance in clinical trials where changes in brain health are anticipated.
Bio: Adam is director of the Centre for Neuroscience of Speech at The University of Melbourne. His team works towards improving speech, language and swallowing function in people with progressive and acquired neurological conditions. He is a recipient of an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship, a senior lectureship in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at The University of Melbourne and a Humboldt Fellowship based at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, Tübingen Germany.
He holds clinical degrees in psychology and speech pathology from the University of Queensland and a PhD in behavioural neuroscience from The University of Melbourne. He undertook his early clinical training in the neurodisability service at Great Ormond Street Hospital London and continues to work as consultant speech pathologist for the Friedreich Ataxia Clinic, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Eastern Cognitive Disorders Clinic, Eastern Health, Melbourne.
11/03/2016 4:00 AMObjective Assessments in Parkinson’s Disease Professor Malcolm Horne
Abstract: In medicine, effective management of disease depends on measurements that accurately relate to the therapies so that those therapies can be effectively deployed to maximise benefit and reduce side effect. 
The Parkinson’s Kinetigraph (PKG) is the first objective measurement for drug responsive symptoms of PD.  This talk will discuss the development, application and commercialisation of the PKG.
Bio: Malcolm Horne is an NHMRC Practitioner Fellow at the
Florey Neurosciences Institute, a consultant Neurologist specialising in Parkinson’s Disease at the St. Vincent’s Hospital and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital. 
His research interests relate to various facets of Parkinson's Disease.  These include studies into the cause of PD including the repair of the brain damaged by PD, measuring PD and the normal and disordered function of dopamine in the brain. 
Current interest also include studies aimed at detecting people at high risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease.  He has developed the Australian Parkinson's Disease registry and the Parkinson’s Kinetigraph.
4/03/2016 4:00 AMEngineering better patient outcomes for visual prostheses Dr Matt Petoe
Abstract: Over the last decade, retinal prostheses ('bionic eyes') have emerged as the most promising technology to restore vision to those with blindness caused by photoreceptor loss.
In an idealised representation of artificial vision, an image captured by the head-mounted video camera is transmitted to the electrode stimulation site on the retina and perceived as a clearly defined set of pixels. The reality of artificial vision is quite different however, with patients reporting perception that is very much unlike their previous sighted experience. In spite of this, it is possible for bionic eye recipients to routinely perform tasks of orientation and mobility, as well as improve performance in activities of daily living.
This talk will discuss some of the challenges faced by bionic eye recipients and discuss ways to identify patient behaviours and tailor post-implantation rehabilitation accordingly.
Bio: Dr Matt Petoe is a biomedical engineer with a keen interest in human perception, neuroscience and clinical research. He is currently working within the Bionic Vision research team to trial the safety and efficacy of a next generation, wide-view bionic eye.
19/02/2016 4:00 PMRestoration of arm function after neurological insultProf Mary Galea,Department of Medicine (Royal Melbourne Hospital), The University of Melbourne
Abstract: Loss of hand function, as may occur after stroke or spinal cord injury, has a severe impact on day-to-day activities and a person’s independence. A vast neural network at both cortical and spinal levels is dedicated to control of hand function, and spared pathways can provide the structural basis for recovery of function after damage to a particular region.
The clinical challenges involve the questions of how to activate the remaining pathways after brain injury, and how to maximise function after spinal cord injury which interrupts the connections between the brain and spinal cord. This talk will cover the physiological basis for recovery of function as well as examples of clinical research programs investigating restoration of function after stroke and spinal cord injury.
Bio: Mary Galea is a physiotherapist and neuroscientist whose research program includes both laboratory-based and clinical projects with the overall theme of control of voluntary movement by the brain, and factors that promote recovery following nervous system damage. She has a particular interest in recovery of arm function, and is currently undertaking projects in patients with stroke, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.
12/02/2016 4:00 PMA novel balance disorder: Cerebellar Ataxia with Neuropathy and Vestibular Areflexia Syndrome (CANVAS)Dr David Szmulewicz, Neurologist & Neuro-otologist, RVEEH
Abstract: Patients with combined cerebellar and vestibular impairment were first identified in 1979 and were studied as a pathophysiological model. The syndrome of Cerebellar Ataxia with Bilateral Vestibulopathy (CABV) and it’s characteristic oculomotor abnormality, that is, the abnormal visually-enhanced vestibulo-ocular reflex (VVOR) was then subsequently described in 2005 in 4 patients, 3 of whom had a peripheral sensory deficit.
This work defines a new neurological disease that is now called ‘CANVAS’: an acronym for Cerebellar Ataxia with Neuropathy and bilateral Vestibular Areflexia Syndrome. We detail the (A) clinical presentation and evolution, (B) essential oculomotor and vestibular abnormalities, (C) neuropathology, (D) otopathology, (E) anatomical pattern of cerebellar atrophy,  (F) neurophysiological characteristics of the somatosensory impairment, (G) differential diagnoses, (H) apparent genetic basis and (I) a diagnostic quantitative bedside oculomotor test.
Bio: David Szmulewicz is a Neurologist, Neuro-otologist and medical researcher. He holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne. His clinical and research interests include balance disorders that affect the vestibular system, cerebellum and the combination of the two. He is the head of the Balance Disorders & Ataxia Service at the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital, consults at the Balance Disorders Clinic at Epworth Camberwell, Honorary consultant Neurologist at St Vincent’s Hospital and Lecturer at Melbourne University.
David is lead investigator on research defining a novel ataxia – Cerebellar Ataxia with Neuropathy and Vestibular Areflexia Syndrome (CANVAS) and is co-director of The Australian Temporal Bone Bank.
5/02/2016 4:00 PMArgus II Retinal Chip Implant - Endoscopic Insights on the Bionic EyeDr Flavio Rezende,Retinal Surgeon, Department of Ophthalmology, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Canada
Abstract: The presentation will describe the current Argus II retinal chip implant surgical technique, its potential complications and limitations. It will highlight as well some insights on vitreoretinal endoscopic imaging of this technique.
Bio: Dr Flavio Rezende is a reputed retinal surgeon from the Department of Ophthalmology at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.  He secured a Ph.D. in Science from São Paulo Federal University (Brazil) after completing his fellowships in vitreoretinal surgery and ocular pathology at the Department of Ophthalmology, McGill University (Canada). Flavio went on to pursue post-doctoral studies in Ophthalmology at Université de Montréal, where he became Chief of Retinal Service in the Department of Ophthalmology and serves as associate professor. In addition to instruction mandates in prestigious institutions such as Harvard Medical School and Pontifícia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro, Flavio garners experience with a dozen clinical trials and research projects, and has many awards, namely 5 ASRS Rhett Buckler Awards. He has co-published well over 50 books, papers, and abstracts covering various aspects of retinal surgery. Dr. Rezende is the 1st surgeon to perform a bionic retinal implant in Quebec, and the 2nd in Canada.
29/01/2016 4:00 PMReverse Engineering the Brain: Computer Modelling of Neural CircuitsDr Dean Freestone, University of Melbourne
Abstract: This presentation is focused on methods for reverse engineering the brain. In this talk, I will discuss various approaches for constructing computer models of neural circuits using experimental and clinical data. The computer models describe data recorded at the local field potential or electroencephalogram scale, and are therefore coarse grain approximations of neural activity. I will show examples of how we can use various modelling approaches to decode the mechanisms of epileptic seizures and movement related activity from neural signals.
Bio: Dean has a Bachelor of Engineering from La Trobe University, where he won the Tad Szental Prize for the best engineering final year student and the Hooper Memorial Prize for best final year project, under the supervision of Graeme Rathbone. He then completed a PhD in Engineering at the University of Melbourne in 2012, under the supervision of David Grayden, Tony Burkitt, Levin Kuhlamnn and Mark Cook. His postgraduate work on epileptic seizure prediction won the John Melvin Memorial Scholarship for the best PhD in Engineering and the Chancellor’s Prize for PhD Excellence. Dean has recently returned from Liam Paninski’s group at Columbia University, New York, where he was the 2014 Victorian Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow. He has now joined the MDHS Faculty at the University of Melbourne and is working in the Department of Medicine at the St. Vincent’s Hospital where he will continue to make inroads into one of the grand challenges in science today: reverse engineering the human brain.
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