Prof Graeme Clark changed the way we thought about hearing when he gave Rod Saunders the first cochlear implant in 1978—now he might just do it again.
Back then, Graeme brought together a team of engineers and medical personnel; now he’s trying to reveal exactly how the brain is wired for sound—by bringing together software specialists and experts on materials that can interface with the brain.
“We’re aiming to get closer to ‘high fidelity’ hearing for those with a cochlear implant,” says Graeme, now distinguished researcher at NICTA and laureate professor emeritus at the University of Melbourne. “This would mean they could enjoy the subtlety of music or the quiet hum of a dinner party.”
With this goal, Graeme is working with Rod’s hearing system one last time—even though Rod passed away in 2007.
Rod, who lost his hearing at 46 in a car accident, left his body to science, so Graeme is examining very finely cut sections of Rod’s brain, which for the better part of four decades was interfaced with the electrodes of a cochlear implant.
To translate this work into better outcomes for patients, and better knowledge of how the brain can interface with bionics, Graeme collaborates with NICTA, La Trobe University, the University of Wollongong and the Department of Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) at the University of Melbourne.
For his significant achievements in advancing our knowledge of human health, Graeme was awarded the 2011 $50,000 CSL-Florey Medal—which is part of CSL Limited’s program of fostering the next generation of medical researchers and recognising excellence in biomedical research.
Photo: 3-D reconstruction of the left implanted cochlea in the brain of Rod Saunders.
Credit: G. Clark; J.C.M. Clark.; M. Clarke; P. Nielsen- NICTA & Dept Otolaryngology, Melbourne University
NICTA Victoria Research Lab, Graeme Clark, Tel: +61 3 9479 1868, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.csl.com.au/corporate-responsibility/community/promoting-excellence-science.htm