Neuroscience research is a major strength in the School.

Comparative neurobiology and neuroecology aims to decipher how different species perceive and process sensory input from the natural world, under different environmental conditions. Our high quality research attracts the next generation of young scientists interested in animal behaviour, sensory processing and the conservation of biodiversity.

Experimental and regenerative neuroscience focuses on neural plasticity and the ability of the nervous system to respond to injury. Studies include understanding how different modes of brain stimulation affect neural circuitry. Other studies are aimed at developing treatments for spinal cord trauma, including nanotechnology for targeted drug delivery. Clinical studies involve early hypothermia to limit the spread of catastrophic damage, exercise to promote recovery and ways to improve bladder health.

Students undertaking the Neuroscience major often progress to honours and PhD and many find employment as scientists with universities, industry and government.

Neuroscience is also a major research strength in the School of Human Sciences, with interdisciplinary teaching and research spanning the two schools.

Comparative neurobiology and neuroecology

Our research group integrates approaches and scientific methods from the fields of neurobiology, animal behaviour and ecology with the specific aim to understand the interactions of animals with their environment.

We are a multidisciplinary team that works to decipher and understand how animals perceive and process sensory input from the natural world, under different environmental conditions. We are passionate about delivering high quality research, as well as training the next generation of upcoming young scientists interested in animal behaviour, sensory processing and the conservation of biodiversity.

Some staff are based at the UWA Oceans Institute.

Interested students are encouraged to read the following project descriptions and contact project leaders with further questions.

The neuroethology of predator avoidance

Animals cannot survive without exposing themselves to the threat of predation. The need to feed, mate and migrate brings them into the open, where they are under constant pressure to rapidly assess and act upon sensory information. We concentrate on how sensory information drives and shapes anti-predator responses in animals such as fiddler crabs.

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How animals see their world

We aim to understand how animals perceive their world and how this influences the amount and precision of information they can gather.

Using state of the art behavioural, physiological and anatomical techniques, we study what animals can see in terms of colour, polarisation, and spatial and temporal resolution.

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Environmental imaging

To understand what animals can see, and what information animals use to make decisions, also requires knowledge about what information the environment actually provides. We use a range of imaging, light measurements, modelling and sophisticated video analysis techniques to quantify the environmental information animals can access.

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Bioimaging of the nervous system

We use sophisticated approaches to image the peripheral and central nervous systems in order to understand the brain and sensory systems. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), microcomputed tomography (┬ÁCT) and confocal microscopy are used to investigate brain size, the organisation and evolution of the brain and the relative importance of different sensory brain regions.

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Comparative sensory processing

We aim to understand the information processing capabilities of a range of model species across various senses, including hearing, olfaction, electroreception and vision. We characterise sensory capabilities, analyse sensory pathways, and try to understand the trade-offs between various behavioural and physiological sensory strategies.

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The testing and development of shark deterrents

Research regarding how sharks sense their environment is being used to instruct translational solutions for shark mitigation. We are testing a range of deterrents currently on the market to see whether they work and also developing new deterrents to reduce the negative interactions between sharks and humans.

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Experimental and regenerative neurosciences

Neurological conditions make up one third of global disease burden, yet there are few effective treatments.

We aim to understand brain structure and function with the goal of promoting functional recovery in various neurological conditions including developmental brain disorders, traumatic injury and neurodegenerative diseases.

We work closely with the School of Human Sciences.

Our research covers three key areas:

Abnormal brain development

The brain is a highly complex organ and errors that arise while circuits are being formed during development can lead to conditions such as cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, epilepsy, mental retardation, autism and dyslexia.

We aim to understand how abnormal circuits arise and how they can be corrected using noninvasive therapies such as pulsed magnetic fields.

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Clinical trials for spinal cord injury

Researchers in the School are involved in a number of multi-centre clinical trials for patients with spinal cord injury:

  • Immediate Cooling and Emergency Decompression (ICED) is examining whether hypothermia within two hours of injury followed by decompression of the spinal cord within eight hours can improve recovery after spinal cord injury.
  • Spinal Cord Injury and Physical Activity (SCIPA) is testing whether moving the paralysed limbs can help promote recovery in surviving neural circuits as well as improve quality of life
  • SCIPA has also developed a community 'train the trainer' program to increase activity and participation for those living with spinal cord injury in the community
  • Other studies include examining current clinical and community-based practice for maintaining bladder health. This is important because bladder infections are the major cause of hospital readmissions after spinal cord injury
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Neurotrauma

Traumatic brain and spinal cord injury results in immediate loss of brain tissue and function as well as progressive damage to surrounding intact tissue that escaped the initial injury.

We aim to understand mechanisms underpinning progressive secondary degeneration and to test a variety of therapies to prevent the spread of such damage. Therapies include combinations of ion channel inhibitors, antioxidants and novel nanotechnologies.

One of the most prevalent forms of traumatic brain injury is concussion. We are conducting a clinical trial to identify predictors of poor outcomes following concussion, in order to identify patients at risk of long term functional loss who may benefit from emerging treatment strategies.

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