Delegation visit fosters collaboration between researchers

Members of the Wong and Siegal labs outside the Monash BDI.

The Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) recently welcomed a visit from a team of researchers from Dr Markus Siegel’s lab from Tübingen University, Germany. The team from Siegel’s lab was visiting to work on a collaborative project with the Monash BDI Neurobionics laboratory, headed by Dr Yan Wong.

The project the two teams are working on aims to develop analytical techniques for understanding how the brain organises itself into complex systems of areas that must orchestrate their activity to guide cognition and behaviour. A core challenge for understanding brain function is to connect the different scales of observation that are needed to assess brain organisation.

Non-human primates provide unique opportunities to reveal brain mechanisms on the level of individual cells and cell populations, with exciting new technologies such as large-scale electrophysiology. However, integration of human neuroscience and the available non-invasive methods for measuring neuronal activity is lacking. Without a connection between these scales of observation, the transfer of insights between them is severely limited. This makes clinical translation of the ground-breaking findings impossible.

The collaboration between researchers from the Siegal lab and the Monash BDI aims to address this gap. The collaboration will see tandem experiments carried out at Monash and Tübingen Universities. These tandem experiments will enable the researchers to understand the similarities and differences in processing of the primate neural circuits in non-human primates and humans.

The Siegel lab is at the forefront of high-profile research projects involving large-scale recordings in non-human primates, (and pairing them with non-invasive experiments in humans). Researchers from the Monash BDI’s Neuroscience Program have pioneered work on animal models for this study – making Monash an ideal partner in this collaboration.

The collaboration is funded by a Universities Australia-German Academic Exchange Service Australia-Germany Joint Research Scheme grant, awarded to Dr David Hawellek and Dr Maureen Hagan, who are post-docs in the Tübingen and Monash teams, respectively.

At the end of the year, Dr Hagan will visit the group in Tübingen to work with the Siegal lab to carry out the studies in humans. She will bring new skills and analysis techniques back to the Monash BDI when she returns.