The University of Melbourne and Florey Neuroscience Institutes
Research Field: Neuroscience
Within the brain, nerve cells must send signals (nerve impulses) along nerve fibers to other parts of the brain and to our muscles. The proper conduction of these nerve impulses is dependent on myelin, an insulating substance that surrounds the nerve fibers in a similar manner to the insulation that surrounds electrical wires. Myelin is produced by specialised cells called oligodendrocytes, each one of which will wrap myelin around multiple nearby nerve fibers. The importance of oligodendrocytes and myelin is highlighted by the devastating effects of human diseases in which myelin is either damaged
(such as Multiple Sclerosis or cerebral palsy) or does not form properly (such as the leukodystrophies). In spite of the myelin’s importance to the functioning of the brain, the signals that drive its formation remain poorly understood.
Dr. Emery’s research aims to understand what controls the development of oligodendrocytes, and subsequently, the communications between nerve cells and the oligodendrocytes that stimulate the oligodendrocytes to myelinate the adjacent nerve fibers. This research not only helps us understand a vital aspect of brain development, but may also enable us to develop treatments that promote the repair of myelin in human diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Ben is active in conference presentations and the author of articles in multiple high-ranking journals including Cell, Neuron, Journal of Neuroscience and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). He has been a presenter at Australian and International conferences, including a plenary lecture for the International Society for Developmental Neuroscience (ISDN India), the Australian
Society for Neuroscience, The Gordon Myelin Conference (U.S.A.), OzBio, Euroglia (Czech Republic) and the American Society for Neurochemistry.
Ben has been involved in the community through being a panel member for Q&A sessions on MS research and has an interest in the career development of postgraduate students, speaking at a ‘Careers after a PhD’ session and neuroscience training session
for postgraduate students.