In 2008, Professor Graeme Clark delivered an oration for an audience of 250, recounting his history developing the bionic ear and celebrating the team, people, and partnerships that lead to its success. Due to its popularity and growing community interest in scientific advances, Graeme chose to make the oration an annual event. It is now held in the Plenary Hall at the Melbourne Convention Centre, seating over five thousand people including students, teachers, researchers, and industry professionals. The oration is now live broadcasted online and the hashtag #GCOration trends on twitter!
Following in Graeme’s footsteps, Professor Timothy Denison was the invited speaker this year. He shared his research and findings in the area of implantable bio-electronics. His bio-medical engineering career started in research and design, where he researched methods of decreasing the size of pacemakers, whilst maintaining functionality. His fascination with implantable medical devices led him to join a team pioneering the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. The research he presented was astounding; the team were able to reduce tremors experienced by Parkinson’s patients by up to 30%. This was achieved by using implantable devices that send small electrical charges to sections of the brain, stimulating the synapses responsible for motor control; like how a pace maker uses electrical currents to regulate the heartbeat.
As incredible as the research is, for Professor Deninson, it is only the beginning. The brain machine interface technology used to treat Parkinson’s patients was specifically designed to be a universal implant, supported by open-source code. Professor Denison believes the same technology could, in theory, be used to treat a wide number of neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and anxiety. He also mentioned the advances made in wearable biomedical devices, and hinted at the possibility of accomplishing these feats without surgery.