Knowledge gained overseas enabled the establishment of one of the few laboratories in the world investigating methods to restore balance reflex function.
Assoc Prof Americo Migliaccio co-founded a laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in the USA and was part of the fast-track academic program. On returning to Australia, NeuRA offered an excellent opportunity to continue this research. He now applies his skills to his translational research program connecting studies in basic physiology to clinical studies in patients – research identified by the NHMRC as a priority and valued contribution in Australia.
Assoc Prof Migliaccio studies the vestibulo-ocular reflex that helps to stabilise vision during rapid head movement, which would otherwise appear to bounce every time we walk or move. The reflex involves a direct nerve connection from the balance organ in the inner ear to the eye muscles. Injuries to the balance organ through illness or ageing also lead to problems with balance, especially in the dark, and walking. Some people recover from this type of injury but most continue to have poor quality of life.
He has identified a neural pathway that may be crucial for recovery after injury or ageing and is working towards the development of treatments targeting this pathway.