Optogenetics for precise neural stimulation

Supervisors: A/Prof Rachael Richardson, A/Prof James Fallon, A/Prof Andrew Wise, Dr Alex Thompson

The aim of this project is to develop the next generation of neural stimulation devices that use optical stimulation or combined optical/electrical stimulation in order to improve the precision of neural activation. The project will use cutting edge optogenetic techniques to express a light sensitive ion channel in neurons so that they can be activated with low-powered blue micro-LEDs. Electrophysiological recordings will be used to examine whether optical stimulation strategies can improve the spatial precision of neural activation. A significant advantage of improved precision of stimulation of the auditory nerve, for example, would be the ability to stimulate independent channels that would greatly enrich the auditory percept from a cochlear implant, such as the ability to perceive music.

This project will suit a student who has first class honours or equivalent in any of the following disciplines: neuroscience, physiology, biomedical engineering, or similar degrees. Electrophysiology and cell culture skills are desirable. The methods that will be used in this project include: electrophysiology, viral gene therapy, surgical device implantation, optical/electrical stimulation, optical modelling, cell culture, histology, immunohistochemistry, behavioural testing.

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