Victorian Lions Foundation Programs - Neurobionics Research Fellow

Lions are funding an exciting new research program at the Bionics Institute which is based on their 30 years of experience. Our Neurobionics Fellow will take a central role in the development of implantable brain stimulation devices that will provide treatment for severe neurological and psychiatric conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other conditions. The Institute’s first Lions International Neurobionics Fellow is working with our engineers and scientists to develop and evaluate advanced deep brain stimulation systems to treat movement disorders such as essential tremor and Parkinson’s Disease.

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The Lions International Neurobionics Research Fellowship project is an initiative of the Lions Club of Balla Balla in the MD201V3 District that was adopted as a national Category B project in 2013 and renewed for a further 3 years in 2014.

The Neurobionics Fellow will work with the neurobionics research team at the Bionics Institute to explore implant devices that monitor neural activity in the brain, spinal cord, or elsewhere in the body, and/or stimulate nerves electrically for therapeutic applications. The focus is on realworld applications to alleviate common disorders like epilepsy and blackouts, movement disorders including Parkinson's disease and essential tremor, and certain severe psychiatric conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder.

Following a national appeal to Clubs, over $250,000 has been raised. The first Neurobionics Fellow has been appointed and a Neurobionics Clinical Laboratory has been established at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne. The initial research is on Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's Disease.

The first Neurobionics Fellow to be appointed is Dr Wesley Thevathasan: Dr Thevathasan undertook his medical degree and neurological training in Melbourne. He then further specialised in movement disorders and deep brain stimulation at the National Hospital, Queen Square, London and the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. He was appointed honorary consultant neurologist at Oxford where he managed the deep brain stimulation of hundreds of patients.

After helping develop a new form of deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease (PPN DBS), he received a doctorate from the University of Oxford. Dr Thevathasan currently holds an NHMRC research fellowship and project grant to advance the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation. He sits on international committees creating guidelines for DBS. He guides DBS implantation at major public hospitals in Melbourne (RMH, Austin, St Vincents) and consults privately at Cabrini Hospital (Malvern) and Melbourne Private Hospital (Parkville).

Dr Thevathasan is working on Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) to directly improve movement including slowness, stiffness, tremor, walking difficulties and involuntary movement (dyskinesias). This can reduce the need to take Parkinson's medication. DBS does not directly improve non-movement issues such as intellect, sleep disturbance or bladder function. DBS does not cure Parkinson's disease or slow progression of the disease. The aim of DBS is to improve quality of life — and can remain beneficial over the long term (e.g. over 10 years). Research underway in collaboration with the Bionics Institute includes the investigation of new target sites for electrode placement, and the development of a 'closed-loop' stimulator system to more accurately titrate the

therapeutic stimulation.

The project is off to a great start, but Lions still have work to do. Our target is to raise a total of $1 million that will enable the Bionics Institute to continue its research in Neurobionics into the future to improve the quality of life for many members of our community. If every Club in MD201 contributes $1000 we will get there this year!

Dr Thevathasan's research is already having a clinical impact. Let's help him to keep up the good work.

See update in the News Section

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