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Dr Anu Sabu, Research Fellow

Anu Sabu is a Research Fellow in the bionic auditory neuroscience group at the Bionics Institute.

She completed her PhD research in Biomedical Engineering (3D cell cultures for Neural Tissue Engineering) at the Swinburne University of Technology.

She undertook her PhD research at the Biomedical Manufacturing unit of CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency and her research interests include medical bionics, medical devices, neuroscience research and clinical translation.

Anu has a bachelor’s in Applied Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering (Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, India) and master’s in Biomedical Engineering (The University of Melbourne).

She also completed a Graduate Certificate of Research and Innovation Management at Swinburne University of Technology.

At the Bionics Institute, Anu works with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers in the fields of neuroscience,biomedical engineering, and photonics.

She is involved in pre-clinical research utilising electrophysiological techniques to understand how information is encoded in the peripheral and central auditory system and develops techniques to improve the encoding of auditory information.

She works with the implantation of biomedical devices, electrophysiological recording, data analysis, and behavioural assays.

Previously, Anu has worked at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and CSIRO.

Email: [email protected]

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9002-4342 

Google Scholar: Dr Anu Sabu 

Recent publications

Mohit N Shivdasani, Mihailo Evans, Owen Burns, Jonathan Yeoh, Penelope J Allen, David A X Nayagam, Joel Villalobos, Carla J Abbott, Chi D Luu, Nicholas L Opie, Anu Sabu, Alexia L Saunders, Michelle McPhedran, Lisa Cardamone, Ceara McGowan, Vanessa Maxim, Richard A Williams, Kate E Fox, Rosemary Cicione, David J Garrett, Arman Ahnood, Kumaravelu Ganesan, Hamish Meffin, Anthony N Burkitt, Steven Prawer, Chris E Williams and Robert K Shepherd. In vivo feasibility of epiretinal stimulation using ultrananocrystalline diamond electrodes. Journal of Neural Engineering, Volume 17, Number 4, doi: https://doi.org/10.1088/1741-2552/aba560 

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Latest News

Passe & Williams Foundation Fellowship winners 2024

The Passe & Williams Foundation have continued their longstanding support of Bionics Institute hearing researchers with the two prestigious Fellowships.

The highly competitive Fellowships went to Dr Anu Sabu who was awarded the Early Career Researcher Fellowship and Demi Gao who was awarded the Mid-Career Research Fellowship.

Dr Anu Sabu
Anu is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the bionic auditory neuroscience group at the Bionics Institute and works with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers in the fields of neuroscience, biomedical engineering, and photonics.

Anu shares:
I am sincerely honoured to have been selected as a recipient of the Junior Fellowship award by the Passe and Williams Foundation. Thanks to their generosity, it has been possible for me to develop as a future research leader in auditory neuroscience and continue developing innovative solutions for common hearing issues.
The research will explore the range of physiological changes that enhance the speech comprehension and sound quality, especially in noisy environments. An understanding of how information is processed in the auditory brain of these patients will enable clinicians to make informed decisions on optimising the combined stimulation provided by the cochlear implants and hearing aids for people living with partial deafness.

The results from the research will shed light on the benefits of using a combination of cochlear implants and hearing aids for people with partial hearing loss. Dr Anu Sabu

Demi is a Senior Research Scientist at the Bionics Institute and Honorary Research Fellow in the Medical Bionics Department, University of Melbourne. 

Demi shares:
This is a fantastic opportunity to accelerates intervention in infants and children with hearing and language disorders using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy, an emerging light-based brain imaging technology.
The developed technique will substantially reduce the uncertainties involved during clinical estimation of cochlear implant programs in younger infants. The completion of this project will lead to clinical change towards objective identification of implant parameters. This project will lead to clinical change towards improved infant implant programming, leading to prelingually deafened children to have a similar learning rate for speech and language compared to their normal hearing peers.

 

I’m thrilled to have received this prestigious fellowship to establish and expand my research program. Dr Demi Gao

Congratulations Demi and Anu on this amazing achievement which allows further investigation into how a combination of cochlear implants and hearing aids might give a more unified perception of sound for improved speech understanding.

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PhD Projects Available

PhD Projects Available at the Bionics Institute

The Bionics Institute provides the opportunity to complete your PhD on a wide range of projects with real clinical impact.

As a PhD student at the Bionics Institute, you will have access to multidisciplinary experts and world-class facilities within an environment that actively fosters clinical collaboration and encourages innovation.

Stipend scholarships are available for two of the PhD projects listed below and Bionics Institute Innovate for Life Scholarships are available for high-achieving students seeking to undertake the other PhD projects listed.

To register your interest in completing a PhD or a Masters by Research degree (e.g. MSc, MPhil etc.) at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form found in the project description.

If you don’t see a project that suits your interests, we are also open to innovative project suggestions from students. Please enquire using the same registration form.

Supplementary Information

Bionics Institute supervisors are affiliated with the University of Melbourne. However we welcome collaborative efforts with external supervisors from other enrolling universities.

High-achieving students are encouraged to apply for a Bionics Institute Innovate for Life Scholarship, which provides a stipend of $35,000 per annum for up to four years.

PhD students in these projects who do not receive a Bionics Institute Innovate for Life Scholarship can be supported by scholarships awarded by the enrolling university. Affiliated supervisors can assist in the application procedure for these scholarships.

PhD Projects with scholarships from RMIT and the University of Melbourne

Please click on each PhD title to learn more.

Developing miniaturised peripheral nerve interface technology for abdominal vagus nerve stimulation

This project is associated with a scholarship from RMIT for $31,885 per annum for three years.

Understanding how the brain processes combined electrical and acoustic stimulation

This project is associated with a scholarship from the University of Melbourne for $32,400 per annum for three years.

PhD Project Information

Click on the + to expand the PhD project you’re interested in

  • Supervisors: James Fallon, Alex Thompson
  • Research theme: Brain Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

Modern neuromodulation devices are moving towards closed-loop control, often requiring the recording of neural signals from the nerves. Two key issues faces by such system are low power requirements and stimulus artefacts

An option to reduce power consumption is to improve the efficiency of onboard signal processing. Another way to reduce computation is to offload the information to an external device for processing via a wireless link. However, transmitting data wirelessly is expensive and you wish to send as little information as possible.

Traditionally, the amount of information you need to transmit over the wireless link is dictated by the rate of change of the signal. Nyquist theory states that you need to sample at twice the rate of the fastest changing component you wish to capture. However, this is only true for signals that are regularly sampled

An alternative approach is to do non-linear sampling of the signal, it is then possible to accurately estimate properties of your signal (neural measure in our case) from far fewer samples than required by the Nyquist theorem. This field of signal processing is called compressed sensing or sparse sampling.

Nothing is free however, and the reduced sampling rate comes at the cost of increased computation, but this computation will be done by the external device with larger battery and CPU, or even offloaded to the cloud.

To deal with stimulus artefacts, current systems typically rely on ‘brute-force’ approaches including high-sampling rates and complex filtering. By utilising known key features of the neural response of interest, more efficient and robust recording techniques are possible.

Suitable background of students: Engineering (eg. Biomedical, Electrical)

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Professor Kate Hoy, Dr Oscar Murphy, Dr Sung Wook Chung, Dr Mehrnaz Shoushtarian.
  • Research theme: Brain Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

There is increasing evidence that dysfunctional connectivity is the likely proximate cause of cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is significant inconsistency with respect to findings across different modalities and across different stages of illness.

The proposed research program will conduct a comprehensive multimodal cross-sectional investigation of dysfunctional connectivity. It will look at resting state connectivity from fMRI, EEG and fMRI in 120 people (40 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, 40 people with MCI and 40 healthy older adults) and investigate the association between these imaging measures and cognitive and functional assessments.

The proposed research will greatly increase our understanding of the brain activity underlying cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease, contributing to the development of novel therapeutic targets for this devastating illness.

Suitable background of students: Experience in analysing EEG, fMRI and/or fNIRS data, experience in recruiting and interviewing participants and preferably a psychology or neuroscience student.

General methods to be used in the project: EEG, fMRI, fNIRS, Cognitive and Functional assessments.

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Demi Gao, James Fallon, Anu Sabu
  • Research theme: Hearing Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

Evidence have demonstrated that the auditory system constantly changes in the structure and function, extending from peripheral structures into auditory cortex, in response to changes in auditory input.

The duration of auditory system plasticity ranges from rapid adaptation to stimulus to long-term changes associated with hearing loss or cochlear implantation. Most forms of auditory system plasticity are adaptive to optimise auditory performance, which in principle can be used for therapeutic purposes.

This project aims to establishing a model that capture the general principles of auditory system plasticity from peripheral structures to auditory cortex. Specifically, we aim to develop a model of auditory system that allows the investigation of the underlying mechanisms of the plasticity at different levels of the auditory pathway, and to investigate possible plasticity-based strategies that may prevent/reverse the functional and organisational changes in auditory cortex caused by hearing loss. The outcome of the project may lead to future clinical changes towards the neuroplasticity-based therapeutic interventions for cochlear Implant rehabilitation.

General methods to be used in the project: Computational modeling, Electrophysiology

Suitable background of students: Biomedicine or Engineering (eg. Biomedical, Electrical)

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Dr Demi Gao, Dr Julia Wunderlich, Dr Tommy Peng, Prof Colette McKay
  • Research theme: Hearing and Vision Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

Children with a permanent hearing loss could severely impair language development, leading to life-long impact on their education, employment, social and mental health. The delay between identification of hearing loss and provision of optimal access to sound via a hearing instrument is extremely detrimental to language development. Hearing research have always been seeking to better understand the relationship between the neural mechanisms and speech understanding, with the goals of advancing hearing device technology and improving hearing loss diagnosis and management. Functional near infra-red spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a safe, non-invasive technique that making it ideal for the assessment of hearing mechanisms. In this project, we use fNIRS to record the cortical neural response to sounds. This project aims to analyse the fNIRS response of sleeping infants to better understand their discrimination ability of different sound intensities and speech contrasts.

General methods to be used in the project: fNIRS, signal processing, data mining.

Suitable background of students: Engineer/IT/Neuroscience graduate with good signal processing and programming skills. Strong interpersonal skills are required as the student will be working in a multi-disciplinary team and will be working with study participants.

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisor: A/Prof Andrew Wise, Dr Niliksha Gunewardene
  • Research theme: Hearing and Vision Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

Hair cells, the receptor cells for sound, are a highly susceptible part of the auditory system. Hair cell loss is the leading cause of deafness, occurring in almost half a billion people worldwide.

Despite the prevalence, there are no biological treatments available for deafness. The current standards of care are restricted to palliative devices including hearing aids or cochlear implants that provide only partial hearing restoration for a limited patient population. As such, there is a significant demand for the development of a pharmacological treatment for hearing loss.

Manipulating specific cell developmental pathways in cochlear stem cells is a potential approach to activate hair cell regeneration and reverse hearing loss. This project aims to test small molecules or drugs that regulate pathways required for hair cell development for the treatment of hearing loss. The available projects fall into two categories and can be modified to suit individual background/strengths.

  1. In vitro: Developing a drug screening platform to test the efficacy of small molecules or drugs in promoting hair cell differentiation
  2. In vivo: Investigating the potential of specific drug treatments in promoting hair cell regeneration and restoring hearing function in pre-clinical deafness models

Internal funding may be available to support a stipend for competitive and highly motivated students working in this project.

General methods to be used in the project: application of cell culture, next-generation sequencing, standard molecular biology, surgery, histology, and hearing physiology techniques to assess the efficacy of drug treatments in experimental models.

Suitable background of students: Cell or molecular biology, physiology, biomedicine, genetics or neuroscience.

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Dr Sophie Payne (Bionics Institute, Owen Burns (Bionics Institute), A/Prof Elisa Hill (RMIT)
  • Research theme: Autoimmune and Chronic Condition Research
  • Enrolling university: RMIT
  • Scholarship: $31,885 per annum for three years with a possible extension of six months (full-time).

This project will expand Bionics Institute’s vagus nerve stimulation technology and utilise novel thin-film fabrication techniques to develop a miniaturised peripheral nerve array for abdominal vagus nerve of mice.

The peripheral nervous system has extensive surgically accessible nerve connections with the central nervous system and the body’s organs, in particular the gastrointestinal tract. This provides the opportunity to exploit rapidly advancing methods of electrically stimulating the peripheral nervous system to treat human diseases. At the core of such ‘electric medicine’ research lies the concept of stimulating the vagus nerve, an autonomic nerve that has successfully been used as a clinical treatment of epilepsy, depression, migraines, obesity, and shows promise as a treatment for the immune-mediated diseases inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The effects of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) are diverse and has created considerable interest in the clinical community as we are only scratching the surface of what this system is capable of.

At the Bionics Institute, we have previously developed and validated a cuff electrode array designed for long-term implantation onto the abdominal vagus nerve of rats and sheep. This technology was used to valid the efficacy of vagus nerve stimulation to relieve experimental intestinal inflammation and is now entering clinical trials for the treatment of Crohn’s disease. There are numerous mouse genetic models of human diseases, which are an essential tool for understanding mechanisms of disease and discovering new therapies. As such, the overall goal of this project is to expand our vagus nerve stimulation technology and adapt it to awake, freely moving mice. Specifically, the project aims to utilise novel thin-film fabrication techniques to develop a miniaturised peripheral nerve array, designed for safe, long-term implantation onto the abdominal vagus nerve of awake mice. Efficacy of stimulation will be assessed in a mouse disease model.

General methods to be used in the project: Electrode design and development, fabrication of electrodes, chronic in vivo stimulation and recording and electrophysiological testing, histology, intestinal permeability, molecular and microbial assays

Suitable background of students: Bioengineering, Electrical engineering, Neuroscience

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Demi Gao, Tommy Peng, Julia Wunderlich, Colette McKay
  • Research theme: Hearing and Vision Research Research
  • Enrolling university: University of Melbourne

Babies born with hearing impairment can miss out on the vital sounds they need to hear to learn to speak. If the right hearing treatment is not provided in the first months of life, they never fully catch up with their peers, and have a permanent communication deficit delay.

In our lab, we have pioneered a new hearing test that informs if a baby can hear the difference between speech sounds using functional near infra-red spectroscopy (fNIRS), a light-based non-invasive brain imaging technique.

This project aims to interpret fNIRS data recorded from sleeping infants with cochlear implants to develop an objective method to appropriately program cochlear implants for babies early in life so that they can learn to speak and have the best start in life.

General methods to be used in the project: fNIRS, signal processing, data mining

Suitable background of students: Engineer/IT/Neuroscience graduate with good signal processing and programming skills. Strong interpersonal skills are required as the student will be working in a multi-disciplinary team and will be working with study participants.

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: A/Prof James Fallon, Dr Alex Thompson
  • Research theme: Hearing and Vision Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

Behavioural training in pre-clinical models allows the testing of perception of complex sounds. When applied to models with cochlear implants or treated with hearing therapeutics, this provides important information on the performance of the intervention.

This can provide more clinically relevant information than is obtained with traditional functional measurements or from histology. This added information is important, as many treatments or stimulation techniques look promising in pre-clinical models but fail in the clinic. Using behavioural training, we aim to reduce the gap between pre-clinical and clinical studies.

This project will develop new techniques for behavioural training in pre-clinical models and test the response to complex stimuli. Results will be compared against traditional electrophysiological recordings and histology.

General methods to be used in the project: behavioural training, signal processing, electrical engineering, electrophysiology.

Suitable background of students: science (e.g. biomedical) or engineering (biomedical, electrical).

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Tommy Peng, Demi Gao, Katherine Henshall
  • Research theme: Hearing and Vision Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

Cochlear implants use electrical stimulation to restore hearing for people with severe to profound hearing loss. However, not every cochlear implant recipient achieves good speech understanding outcomes. The are many possible contributing neurological factors for poorer speech understanding outcomes.

One reason for this is the presence of neural ‘dead regions’ in the cochlea. These dead regions affect speech understanding by making it difficult for each component frequency in a speech signal to be independently heard. Thus, implant users experience a ‘scrambled’ speech signal. This project will evaluate and address patient-specific differences at the electrode-neuron interface to improve speech understanding outcomes.

In this project, we will use a psychophysical method to determine which parts of the cochlear contain neural dead regions in each individual. Then we will construct an individualised program for each individual that avoids using intra-cochlear electrodes that are near those dead regions. We will then evaluate whether this new individualised program improves their speech understanding. This project is a major opportunity to actually improve the quality of life of cochlear implantees and contribute to novel clinical management techniques.

This project will support potentially lead to new clinical procedures to optimize the programming of cochlear implants for individual people.

General methods to be used in the project: psychophysics, electrophysiology, and cochlear implant programming.

Suitable background of students: audiology, neuroscience, engineering, experimental psychology or related disciplines. Strong interpersonal skills are required as the student will be working directly with deaf individuals with a cochlear implant.

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Dr Tommy Peng, Dr Demi Gao, Dr Katherine Henshall and Dr Gautam Balasubramanian
  • Research theme: Hearing and vision research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

Cochlear implants use electrical stimulation to restore hearing for people with severe to profound hearing loss.

However, not every cochlear implant recipient achieves good speech understanding outcomes.

There are many possible contributing neurological factors for poorer speech understanding outcomes.

This project will evaluate cerebral cortex changes after implantation in recipients and how it correlates with speech understanding outcomes.

Our lab uses functional near infra-red spectroscopy (fNIRS), a light-based non-invasive brain imaging technique, to study how the brain reorganises after deafness and electric hearing restoration for cochlear implant recipients.

This project aims to record, analyse, and interpret fNIRS data recorded from cochlear implant recipients.

The data will then be applied in machine learning approaches to predict speech understanding outcomes.

TThe developed technology will enable clinicians to better allocate their time and resources and to increase the benefit that people will get from cochlear implants.

General methods to be used in the project: fNIRS, signal processing, machine learning.

Suitable background of students: Engineer graduate or data scientist with high-level signal processing skills

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Rachael Richardson, James Fallon, Tommy Peng
  • Research theme: Hearing and vision research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

The sound encoding strategy of modern cochlear implants depends on pulsatile stimulation because the pulses need to be temporally interleaved to reduce the summation of electric fields across channels.

This summation effect occurs during multichannel electrical stimulation, including multichannel analog stimulation, due to the extensive spread of electrical current from each electrode.

However, it is well documented that many implant listeners perform better with analog stimulation compared to pulsatile stimulation strategies.

In terms of sound quality, it has been reported that participants using analog stimulation strategies could perceive a “tonal” difference between analog and pulsatile stimulation, with descriptions of the sound being “bell-like” for analog and “harsh” and “distorted” for pulsatile.

Enabling technologies that reduce the spread of activation during stimulation are required for analog stimulation strategies to be more successfully implemented.

We have previously shown that optogenetic stimulation strategies significantly reduce the spread of activation and allow simultaneous stimulation with much lower interactions between channels.

The first aim of this project is to determine whether we can deliver more temporal information to the cochlea using analog light stimulation strategies. The second aim is to determine how well the brain encodes speech tokens during hybrid stimulation of the cochlea in quiet and in the presence of background noise.

The outcomes of the study have the potential to improve the sound quality for cochlear implant users, hence this research aligns with the Bionics Institute’s mission to develop devices the modulate neural activity for managing health conditions.

General methods to be used in the project: Acute surgical methods (cochlear implantation, insertion of recording electrodes), acute electrophysiological recordings, signal processing and data analysis.

Suitable background of students: Neuroscience, Physiology, Biomedical Science, Medical Biotechnology

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: A/Professor James Fallon, Dr Sophie Payne
  • Research theme: Autoimmune and Chronic Condition Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

The urine produced by the kidneys is stored in the bladder prior to being voided from the body at behaviourally appropriate times (micturition).

However, a number of conditions including spinal cord injury or damage during prostectomy or colorectal resection surgery can lead to urinary incontinence or retention.

Controlling urination with a bionic device implanted onto nerves that innervate the bladder is a novel technique for the treatment of bladder incontinence/retention.

The Bionics Institute have developed a novel method of monitoring activity in the pelvic nerve. Combining this technology with stimulation to activate or inhibit neural signals in order to trigger or prevent urination could form the basis of a closed-loop bioelectric bladder control device.

This project will use the rodent urogenital system to further develop neural recording and stimulation technology to be able to selectively record and active different neural fibre types so that this technology can be utilized to develop closed-loop control over bladder function.

General methods to be used in the project: Electrophysiology; Electrical Stimulation; Physiology; Control Engineering; Histology

Suitable background of students: Neuroscience; endocrinology; bioengineering; physiology; biomedical science.

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Rachael Richardson, Sophie Payne
  • Research theme: Chronic pain research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

Chronic pain has a huge impact on individuals, families and the healthcare system and the use of pain killers leads to addiction and, too often, overdose.

Electrical implants are a relatively new treatment for chronic pain, but electrical stimulation cannot easily discriminate between the numerous types of fibres in mixed nerve bundles, making it difficult to address pain safely. This shortcoming is preventing its widespread uptake.

We have developed technology that can selectively address nerve fibres relating to pain signalling within a mixed peripheral nerve.

Using optogenetics, we used light to excite only the nerve fibres of interest, leaving neighbouring fibres unaffected. We showed that a combination of light and electrical stimulation provided better precision, efficiency, and safety compared to electrical or optical stimulation alone.

In this project, we aim to compare selective combined stimulation with existing electrical-only methods for pain suppression. We will use an excitatory opsin that is selectively expressed in touch sensory fibres that can mediate analgesia via gating mechanisms. Using electrophysiological readouts (compound action potential and single unit recordings in the sciatic nerve and local field potentials in the dorsal horn) and awake pain behavioural assays in chronically implanted injured rats, we will assess the ability of our selective technologies to block nerve signalling and suppress pain. We will compare these methods to electrical nerve block methods used clinically.

This research aligns with BI’s mission to develop devices the modulate neural activity for managing health conditions.

General methods to be used in the project: Electrophysiological recordings, surgical injection of a viral vector, surgical implantation of a nerve cuff device made in-house, histology, behavioural assays.

Suitable background of students: Neuroscience, Physiology, Biomedical Science, Medical Biotechnology

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: A/Prof Rachael Richardson, A/Prof James Fallon, A/Prof Andrew Wise, Dr Alex Thompson
  • Research theme: Hearing and Vision Research and Brain Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne

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.

General methods to be used in the project: electrophysiology, viral gene therapy, surgical device implantation, optical/electrical stimulation, optical modelling, cell culture, histology, immunohistochemistry, behavioural testing.

Suitable background of students: 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.

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: Rachael Richardson, Arnan Mitchell
  • Research theme: Brain Research
  • Enrolling university: RMIT

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an established therapy for several neurological and psychiatric conditions. The therapy involves surgical implantation of electrodes to a target brain region, and delivery of continuous electrical impulses via a neurostimulator to modulate abnormal neural activity.

Despite its rapid implementation and success, undesirable side effects remain a major limitation. These are caused by non-selective stimulation of a mixed population of neurons due to inaccurate electrode positioning and/or spread of electrical current to non-target regions. There is an unmet clinical need to develop approaches that can selectively activate specific neurons or axonal pathways within a DBS target to reduce stimulation-induced side effects and improve the overall effectiveness of the therapy. We recently discovered that hybrid stimulation, a combination of electric and optogenetic stimulation improves the precision of neural activation in the auditory system.

This project aims to explore the potential of hybrid stimulation to improve neural selectivity and the overall efficacy of DBS.

General methods to be used in the project: Device development, stereotactic surgery, electrical/optical stimulation, recording and analysis.

Suitable background of students: Biomedical engineer, Neuroscience

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form

  • Supervisors: A/Prof James Fallon, Dr Alex Thompson>
  • Research theme: Brain Research
  • Enrolling university: The University of Melbourne
  • Scholarship: $32,400 per annum for three years with a possible extension of six months (full-time).

The expansion of criteria for cochlear implantation to include patients with substantial residual hearing has focused interest on the benefits of combined electro-acoustic stimulation (EAS). Although such stimulation via a hybrid cochlear implant (CI) and hearing aid in the same ear has been shown to improve speech understanding, particularly in noise, and to increase the aesthetic quality of sound, almost nothing is known about the physiological mechanisms underlying these benefits. A number of pre-clinical studies have been performed, but they have been based on normal hearing and used simple acoustic and electrical stimulation that are not representative of complex electrical and acoustic information that represent speech and have limited clinical relevance. This project will address this deficiency by investigating EAS in an appropriate model with clinically relevant acoustic and electrical stimuli.

General methods to be used in the project: Electrophysiology, behavioural training, and electrical stimulation.

Suitable background of students: Science, Biomedicine, or Engineering (e.g., Biomedical, Electrical).

To register your interest in completing this PhD at the Bionics Institute please complete the registration form.

Registration form