The translation of neural-electronic interface research into clinical applications is gathering pace with advances in implantable miniaturised electronic devices that record or stimulate nerve signals.
This has been applied extensively to sensory and brain neural systems used in bionics and brain–machine interfaces. Our researchers have a longstanding involvement in this field, drawing on capabilities developed from the successful cochlear implant (bionic ear) and the new bionic eye program, which has undergone its first human trials.
Emerging applications for neuro-electronics include therapeutic brain stimulation to monitor and treat neurological diseases such as epilepsy. Advances are incorporating embedded sensors that can provide stimulation on demand in response to specific symptoms, such as a seizure. These systems will be supported by wearable smart app technology, allowing data from these devices to help optimise patient outcomes.
Other applications involve the brain–machine interfaces for spinal cord injury, stroke, motor neurone disease, traumatic limb amputation and gut stimulation, to treat and manage inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
This program brings together leading researchers in engineering, neuroscience and other disciplines at The University of Melbourne in partnership with hospitals and industry to develop medical technologies that will address diseases that can be treated using electrical stimulation. The program aims to develop approaches, expertise and intellectual property that can be used across different diseases and modalities of neural systems. As case examples, the program focusses on the following areas:
- Therapeutic brain stimulation for the monitoring and treatment of epilepsy;
- Brain-machine interfaces for spinal cord injury, stroke, motor neuron disease and traumatic limb amputation;
- Gut stimulation for the treatment and management of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease;
- Bionic eye for the treatment of visual failure, particularly age-related macular degeneration and Retinitis Pigmentosa;
- Bionic ear for the management of sensorineural hearing loss.
The team has niche capabilities in understanding how the brain processes information, how best to present information to the brain using medical bionics, such as the bionic ear and bionic eye, and how to record information from the brain, such as through brain-machine interfaces.
- Development of an implantable device to treat epilepsy and novel polymer-based drug delivery systems.
- Surgical implantation of devices in the brain.
- Computational models of epilepsy and seizure prediction.
- Neural signal processing and analysis of datasets recorded from the brain.
- Closed-loop control of neural systems.
- Neuro-computational techniques.
- Brain-network connectivity.
- Machine learning and cognitive computing technology.
- First-in-human trial of implanted seizure prediction system.
- First-in-human trial of suprachoroidal bionic eye.
- Proof-of-concept of endovascular electrode array (StentrodeTM).
- Faraday shielded room for neural recordings.
- Extensive facilities in human and animal physiology.
Professor Mark Cook
Professor David Grayden