Professor Gary Egan
Experts from several disciplines will be involved in vision related research at a new $20 million brain research centre based at Monash University in Melbourne.
Visual attention and prediction will be one area studied at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function.
The centre will combine techniques for analysing brain anatomy, physiology and function, with advanced computational techniques, to uncover the fundamental principles of brain function.
On 20 August, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg, opened the centre, which is led by Monash University neuroscientist, Professor Gary Egan.
Collaborating organisations include Monash University, the University of Queensland, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, Australian National University and the University of New South Wales.
Director of the National Vision Research Institute, Professor Michael Ibbotson, Professor Paul Martin from the University of Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital, Associate Professor Ulrike Grunert from the University of Sydney and Professor Marcello Rosa from Monash University will be involved in research identifying the neural basis of visual attention and prediction.
Professors Martin, Ibbotson and Egan will also work with leading visual attention specialist and foundation chair in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Queensland, Professor Jason Mattingley, to record vision-related brain activity.
Engineers who have worked on developing the electronics for Monash Vision Group’s bionic eye, Professor Stan Skafidis from the University of Melbourne and Professor Arthur Lowery from Monash University will be involved in designing new technologies to allow improved recording of vision-related brain activity.
Dr Lilach Avitan from Queensland Brain Institute will also be involved in research.
Professor Ibbotson, node leader for the University of Melbourne, said the work was fundamental in nature, trying to establish how the brain works, which will have significant long-term medical relevance.
‘The centre works on three topic areas: attention, prediction and decision-making,’ he said.
‘While we know a lot about the anatomy of the human brain, we are a very long way from understanding how it drives complex behaviours.
‘We will use modern technologies that allow us to monitor brain activity in very high resolution, such as high-power functional magnetic resonance imaging among many other technologies.
‘Specifically, my areas of expertise are visual attention and within the centre I will start to put more effort into questions relating to visual prediction.’
Professor Egan said the centre would focus on how brain activity underlay attention, prediction and decision-making in human behaviour. He said several projects were underway focusing on cellular activity, circuitry and systems in the brain from different perspectives.
‘There is no particular disease focus—we are not looking at certain eye diseases for example—but are looking at the bigger picture of brain function, activity and connectivity,’ he said.
‘We will engage with international neuroscience initiatives in Europe and the United States.’
The Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, approved funding over seven years.