Please view our latest projects for Vision Science HonoursMOptom research projects and undergraduate vacation projects. Please note, some of these projects involve collaboration with the research group at the Centre for Eye Health and research groups at the University of Melbourne and the University of Auckland.

For more information on PhD or other types of projects, please contact us.

Understanding the influence of retinal degeneration on the efficacy bionic eye implants

We are currently running several collaborative research projects with the Bionic Eye group at the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering on the role of retinal remodelling in retinal prosthesis development.

Retinal prostheses aims to restore vision to those blinded by photoreceptor dystrophies. The level of vision provided by present devices is poor. We are using an interdisciplinary approach incorporating electrophysiology, computational modelling and detailed immunohistochemistry to understand the factors that influence the efficacy of a retinal prosthesis from biological and bioengineering viewpoints. We aim to develop new stimulation strategies to improve vision quality.

These projects intend to provide blind retinal implant recipients with improved artificial vision which will significantly improve their quality of life.

We are currently considering:

  1. PhD projects

  2. MPhil projects

  3. Honours projects

  4. Independent learning projects (medicine)

  5. Final year optometry student projects.

“Our research projects in the Retinal Networks Laboratory are interdisciplinary in scope and are conducted in collaboration with the Bionic Eye group at the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering.

Retinal degeneration (inherited or age related) remains one of largest, untreatable causes of blindness in the developed world. Our remodelling in retinal prosthesis development aims to slow down the progression of retinal disease and restore vision through photoreceptor dystrophies.

Our approach uses a combination of electrophysiology, computational modelling and detailed immunohistochemistry. We focus on the efficacies of retinal prostheses in improving vision quality and quality of life for our recipients.

We will consider projects as part of a PhD and MPhil, honours and independent (medicine) or final year optometry projects.

If you would like to discuss specific projects relating to this collaboration, please contact Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith or Dr Mohit Shivdasani.

Neurochemistry of the normal and diseased retina

Research in this area focuses on how retinal circuitry operates in relation to  neurotransmitter release, receptor location and receptor function. The knowledge gained will develop a retinal roadmap which can be applied to retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. We know changes in retinal signals occur here but the exact details of these changes remain unknown.  

Grant support for this work comes from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)  Future support for funding will continue through NHMRC and The Australian Research Council (ARC).


Our partners

We collaborate with the University of Melbourne, the University of Auckland and the University of Utah.


Understanding retinal remodelling in retinal degenerations

Glutamate and glutamate receptors are the major path of neurotransmission in the mammalian retina. In retinal degenerations such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, remodelling occurs, and we see aberrant expression of glutamate receptors on neurons of the inner retina. Functional remodelling occurs prior to cell death in many ocular diseases. This suggests it is an underlying mechanism of the disease process and a potential point for early therapeutic intervention. Current projects in this area include investigating functional remodelling of glutamate receptors using animal models for retinal degeneration. Understanding changes in retinal circuitry is essential for developing successful therapeutics and implants such as the bionic eye which rely on normal retinal circuitry to function. 

Understanding retinal changes in ischaemic disease 

Retinal ischaemia is a pathological process involved in a range of retinal conditions including vascular occlusions and acute angle closure glaucoma, which is is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.  

Retinal ischaemia results from restriction of blood to the retina and leads to oxygen and glucose deprivation. Even after blood flow is restored, cell death occurs, and patients experience progressive vision loss. We can generate transient ischaemia in rats by elevating intraocular pressure (IOP). Current projects using this animal model characterise changes occurring in short and long term neurons and glial cells.  

The effects of drugs in treating and accelerating retinal disease

Many retinal diseases do not have effective treatments. In turn, many systemic drugs have indirect effects on the retina. We have recently showed that sildenafil (found in drugs like Viagra), can inhibit cGMP-specific phosphodiesterases present in photoreceptors. It can cause retinal dysfunction and activation of cell death pathways. On the other hand, compounds such as the natural herbal supplement vinpocetine, act on cGMP phosphodiseterases and glutamate receptors but are neuroprotective against insult and injury for the retina.

We are investigating the effects of a range of drugs on the retina as potential treatments or accelerants of degeneration. Current projects assess the actions of these drugs in various animal models of retinal disease.