Hearing Neurosciences

Research Overview

Hearing loss is a steadily growing health concern in Australia, and is listed by the World Health Organization as a major cause of disability worldwide. On an individual level, the influence of a hearing impairment is profound, with often devastating social and economic consequences.  Our lab is concerned with understanding the mechanisms responsible for hearing loss, particularly as they relate to neural components, and determining what role ion channels play in controlling auditory function in health, disease and in response to treatment. We use patch-clamp electrophysiology, tissue culture and immunohistochemistry in our in vitro studies, together with in vivo models of hearing loss.


Ms Kate Brody, Research Assistant,


Swinburne University of Technology
Bionics Institute
University of Queensland
UCL Ear Institute (UK)
University of Auckland (NZ)
Centre for Eye Research Australia


Wagstaff Research Fellowship, Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital
Dulcie Gam Trust
Action on Hearing Loss

Research Publications

Cai HQ, Gillespie LN, Wright T, Brown WGA, Minter R, Nayagam B, O’Leary SJ, and Needham K. (2017) Time-dependent activity of primary auditory neurons in the presence of neurotrophins and antibiotics. Hearing Research 350: 122-132

Richardson RT, Thompson A, Wise AK, and Needham K. (2017) Challenges for the application of optical stimulation in the cochlea for the study and treatment of hearing loss. Expert Opinion On Biological Therapy 17(2): 213-223

Wright T, Gillespie LN, O’Leary SJ, and Needham K. (2016) Firing frequency and entrainment maintained in primary auditory neurons in the presence of combined BDNF and NT3. Scientific Reports 6, 28584

Gill KP, Hung SSC, Lo C, Sharov A,  Needham K, Lidgerwood G, Jackson S, Crombie DE, Nayagam BA, Cook T Hewitt AW, Pebay A, and Wong RCB. (2016) Enriched retinal ganglion cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. Scientific Reports 6, 30552

Newbold C, Farrington A, Peters L, Cowan R and Needham K. (2014) Electropermeabilization of adherent cells with cochlear implant electrical stimulation. Audiology and Neurotology  19 (5): 283-292

Gunewardene N, Van Bergen N, Crombie D, Needham K, Dottori M and Nayagam BA. (2014) Differentiating human induced pluripotent stem cells into auditory neurosensory progenitors. BioResearch Open Access 3 (4) 162-175

Yong J, Needham K, Brown WGA, Nayagam BA, Yu A, McArthur SL and Stoddart PR. (2014) Gold nanorod assisted near infrared stimulation of primary auditory neurons. Advanced Healthcare Materials 3 (11): 1862-1868

Bird M, Needham K, Frazier A, van Rooijen J, Leung J, Hough S, Denham M, Thornton ME, Parish C, Nayagam BA, Pera M, Thorburn D, Thompson L and Dottori M. (2014) Functional characterization of Friedreich ataxia iPS-derived neuronal progenitors and their integration in the adult brain. PLoS One 9 (7): e101718

Needham K, Hyakumura T, Gunewardene N, Dottori M and Nayagam BA. (2014) Electrophysiological properties of neurosensory progenitors derived from human embryonic stem cells. Stem Cell Research 12 (1): 241-249

Brown WGA, Needham K, Nayagam BA and Stoddart PR. (2013) Whole cell patch clamp for investigating the mechanisms of infrared neural stimulation. Journal of Visualized Experiments (77):  e50444

Nayagam BA, Edge AS, Needham K, Hyakumura T, Leung J, Nayagam DAX and Dottori M. (2013) An in vitro model of developmental synaptogenesis using co-cultures of human neural progenitors and cochlear explants. Stem Cells and Development 22: 901-912

Needham K, Minter RL, Shepherd RK and Nayagam BA. (2013) Challenges for stem cells to functionally repair the damaged auditory nerve. Expert Opinion On Biological Therapy 13: 85-101

Needham K, Nayagam BA, Minter RL and O’Leary SJ. (2012) Combined application of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neurotrophin-3 and its impact on spiral ganglion neuron firing properties and hyperpolarization-activated currents. Hearing Research 291: 1-14

Research Projects

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Senior Research Fellow Dr Karina Needham

Department / Centre


Unit / Centre

Hearing Neurosciences

MDHS Research library
Explore by researcher, school, project or topic.