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Donald Robertson

E/Prof Donald Robertson

Emeritus Professor
Adjunct and Honorary Staff (School of Human Sciences)

Contact details
Adjunct and Honorary Staff (School of Human Sciences)
The University of Western Australia (M309)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6488 3291
+61 8 6488 1025
Room 2.02F, Physiology Building, Perth campus
BSc W.Aust., PhD McG.
I did my undergraduate honours degree in Physiology at the University of Western Australia (Perth) under the supervision of one of the great names in modern auditory physiology, Brian Johnstone.

I left Perth after honours and did a short stint of research on the efferent control system in hearing with John Desmedt at The Brain Research Institute of The University of Brussels (Universite Libre de Bruxelles). I then moved on to Canada and did my PhD on the mechanisms of sharp tuning in the cochlea under the supervision of Geoffrey Manley at McGill University in Montreal. After that I did a 2 year stint as a postdoc working with John Desmedt in Brussels, this time on cognitive components of evoked cerebral potentials, before returning to Western Australia as a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow. I subsequently took a lecturing position in physiology and have been here ever since, interrupted by immensely enjoyable and useful study leave sojourns in Melbourne (with Dexter Irvine), Madison, Wisconsin (with Donata Oertel), and Auckland with (Gary Housley).

I consider myself very lucky to be able to continue to work and teach in The Auditory Laboratory founded by my old mentor and to have daily contact with the other members of the lab who carry on the work started so many years ago.

In 2012 I retired as a teaching/research academic and was appointed a Senior Honorary Research Fellow. I continue to conduct research, apply for funding, and supervise honours and postgraduate students.
Key research
Research Interests: physiology,neurophysiology, sensory physiology, hearing and deafness, tinnitus
I have engaged in neurophysiological research into mammalian hearing for over 30 years. My research achievements include;
1. First recordings from guinea pig spiral ganglion neurons inside the intact living cochlea
2. Demonstration of the physiological vulnerability of sharp frequency selectivity in primary auditory afferent neurons
3. Microelectrode recording and single cell labeling of afferent and efferent neurons, demonstrating the precise nature of efferent feedback from the brain to the inner ear (with M Gummer)
4. First physiological and pharmacological characterization of olivocochlear efferent neurons in brain slices (with X Wang)
5. First demonstration (with D Irvine) of plasticity of frequency maps in the brain of partially deafened adult animals
6. First full characterization (with D Oertel) in brain slices, of octopus cells of the auditory brainstem
7. First demonstration (with W Mulders) of the effects of activation of the auditory midbrain on inner ear responses to sound
8. Development of an in vitro whole cochlear slice preparation (with G Housley
9. First demonstration (with W Mulders, I Winter and A Paolini) of the physiological action of olivocochlear collaterals in the auditory brainstem.
10. First demonstration, with W Mulders, in an animal model of tinnitus, that central hyperactivity is dependent on maintained spontaneous neural drive from the cochlea
I was the AuPS Invited Lecturer for the 2007 Scientific Meeting.
Refereed Publications 2002-2014

Eleanor S Drummond, Jennifer Rodger, Marissa Penrose, Donald Robertson, Ying Hu, Alan R Harvey (2014) Effects of intravitreal injection of BA-210, or CNTF combined with an analogue of cAMP, on the dendritic morphology of regenerating rat retinal ganglion cells. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience. (in press accepted 18th Dec 2013)

W.H.A.M. Mulders, J. Rodger, M. Albertsen, C. G. Yates, D. Robertson. (2014) Effects of cochlear trauma on BDNF expression in guinea pig cochlear nucleus and inferior colliculus (Otolaryngology open access, in press)

Darryl P. Vogler, Donald Robertson, and Wilhelmina H.A.M. Mulders (2014). Hyperactivity following unilateral hearing loss in characterised cells in the inferior colliculus (Neuroscience in press)

W.H.A.M. Mulders, J. Rodger, C.G. Yates, D. Robertson. (2014) Changes in gene expression in paraflocculus after induction of hearing loss in a guinea pig model conditional acceptance F100Research 109.

Nathanael Yates, Donald Robertson, Mathew Martin-Iverson, Jennifer Rodger (2014). Auditory Brainstem Responses of ephrin-A2-/-, ephrin-A5-/-, and ephrin-A2A5-/- mice Audiol. Neurootol. 19, 115-126

Robertson D, Bester C, Vogler D, Mulders WH Hear Res. (2013) Spontaneous hyperactivity in the auditory midbrain: Relationship to afferent input. Hear. Res. 295:124-9

Mulders WHAM and Robertson D. (2012) Development of Hyperactivity after Acoustic Trauma in the Guinea Pig Inferior Colliculus. Hear. Res. 2012.12.008. [Epub ahead of print].

Robertson, D. and Paki, B. (2002). A role for purinergic receptors at the inner hair cell-afferent synapse? Audiol. Neuro-Otol. 7, 62-67.

Robertson, D.and Paki, B. (2002). Role of L-Type Ca2+ Channels in Transmitter Release From Mammalian Inner Hair Cells. II single-neuron activity. J. Neurophysiol. 87, 2734-2740.

Mulders W.H.A.M. and Robertson D. (2002) Inputs from the Cochlea and the Inferior Colliculus Converge on Olivocochlear Neurons. Hear Res. 167, 206-213.

Mulders, WHAM., Winter I.M. and Robertson D. (2002) Dual action of olivocochlear collaterals in the guinea pig cochlear nucleus. Hear Res. 174, 264-280.

Sellick, P.M., Patuzzi, R. and Robertson, D. (2003). Primary afferent and cochlear nucleus contributions to extracellular potentials during tone-bursts. Hear. Res. 176: 42-58.

Mulders, WHAM, Paolini A.G., Needham, K. and Robertson (2003) Olivococochlear collaterals evoke excitatory effects in onset neurons of the rat cochlear nucleus. Hear Res. 176: 113 - 121.

Sueta, T. , Paki, B. Everett, A.E., and Robertson, D. (2003). Purinergic Receptors in Auditory Neurotransmission. Hear Res. 183: 97-108.

Mulders, WHAM and Robertson, D. (2004) Dopaminergic olivocochlear neurons originate in the high frequency region of the lateral superior olive of guinea pigs. Hear Res. 187: 122-130.

Sueta, Y., S.Y. Zhang, P. M. Sellick , R. Patuzzi and D Robertson (2004). Effects of a Calcium Channel Blocker on Spontaneous Neural Noise and Gross Action Potential Waveforms in the Guinea Pig Cochlea. Hear Res. 188, 117-125.

Mulders, WHAM and Robertson, D. (2005) Diverse Responses of Single Auditory Afferent Fibers to Electrical Stimulation of the Inferior Colliculus in Guinea Pig. Exp. Brain Res. 160:235-44.

Layton, M., Robertson, D., Everett, A.E., Mulders, W.H.A.M. and Yates, G.K. (2005).Cellular localization of voltage-gated calcium channels and synaptic vesicle-associated proteins in the guinea pig cochlea. J Molec Neurosci 27(2):225-44

Mulders, WHAM and Robertson, D. (2005) Noradrenergic modulaton of brainstem nuclei alters cochlear neural output. Hear Res. 204; 147-155.

Mulders WHAM and Robertson, D. (2005) . Catecholaminergic innervation of the guinea pig superior olivary complex. J. Chem Neuroanat. 30, 230-242.

Sellick, PM., Robertson, D and Patuzzi, R. (2006). The effect of BAPTA and 4AP in scala media on transduction and cochlear gain. Hear Res. 211: 7-15.

Mulders, WHAM and Robertson D (2006). Gentamycin abolishes all cochlear effects of electrical stimulation of the inferior colliculus. Exp. Brain Res. 174: 35-44.

Sellick, PM, Kirk, D, Robertson, D. and Patuzzi, R. (2007) Does BAPTA leave outer hair cell transduction channels closed? .Hear Res 224:84-92.

Mulders, WHAM., Harvey, AR. Robertson D. (2007) Electrically-Evoked Responses in Onset Chopper Neurons in Guinea Pig Cochlear Nucleus. J Neurophysiol. 97: 3288-97.

Seluakumaran K, Mulders, WHAM, and Robertson D (2008) Effects of Olivocochlear activation on responses in the auditory midbrain. Exp Brain Res 186: 167-174.

Layton, M. Sellick P Rodger J Robertson D (2008) A method for introducing nonsilencing siRNA into the guinea pig cochlea in vivo. J. Neurosci. Meth. 167: 237-245.

Mulders M. Seluakumaran K. and Robertson D. (2008) Effects of centrifugal pathways on responses of cochlear nucleus neurons to signals in noise. Eur. J Neurosci. 27: 702-14.

Tan M. Robertson D and Hammond G. (2008). Separate contributions of enhanced and suppressed sensitivity to the auditory attentional filter Hearing Res. 241: 18-25

Seluakumaran K, Mulders, WHAM, and Robertson D (2008) Unmasking Effects of Olivocochlear Efferent Activation on Responses of Inferior Colliculus Neurons. Hearing Res. 243: 35-46

Dong S. Mulders WHAM Rodger, J.Robertson D (2009) Changes in Neuronal Activity and Gene Expression in Guinea pig auditory brainstem after unilateral partial hearing loss. Neurosci. 159: 1164–117

Robertson, D. (2009) Centrifugal Control in Mammalian Hearing. Clin.Exptl. Pharmacol. Physiol. 36, 603-611

Mulders WH, Robertson D.(2009) Hyperactivity in the auditory midbrain after acoustic trauma: dependence on cochlear activity. Neuroscience. 164:733-46.

Mulders WH, Paolini AG, Needham K, Robertson D. (2009) Synaptic responses in cochlear nucleus neurons evoked by activation of the olivocochlear system.Hear Res. 256:85-92.

Robertson D and Mulders WHAM (2010). Central Effects of Olivocochlear Activation. Springer Handbook of Auditory Research (in press).

Dong, S. Jennifer Rodger; Wilhelmina Mulders, Robertson, D (2010). Tonotopic changes in GABA receptor expression in guinea pig inferior colliculus after partial unilateral hearing loss Brain Res (in press)

Songyu Dong, Wilhelmina H.A.M. Mulders, Jennifer Rodger, Samantha Woo, Donald Robertson (2010). Acoustic trauma evokes hyperactivity and changes in gene expression in guinea pig auditory brainstem.Eur J. Neurosci. (in press)

Mulders WHAM and Robertson D. (2010) Efferent Pathways Modulate Hyperactivity in Inferior Colliculus. J. Neuroscience (in press)

Mulders WH, Ding D, Salvi R, Robertson D. (2011) Relationship between auditory thresholds, central spontaneous activity and hair cell loss after acoustic trauma.J Comp Neurol.Apr 13. doi: 10.1002/cne.22644. [Epub ahead of print]

D P Vogler, D Robertson and WHAM Mulders (2011) Hyperactivity in the ventral cochlear nucleus after cochlear trauma. J Neurosci. 31:6639-45.

Garrett, A. Robertson D. and Mulders WHAM. (2011) The Actions of Dopamine Receptors in the Guinea Pig Cochlea Audiol Neuro-otol. Audiol Neurootol. 16(3):145-57

Robertson D and Mulders WHAM (2011). Central Effects of Olivocochlear Activation. In: Ryugo D. (Ed.) Auditory and Vestibular Efferents. Springer Handbook of Auditory Research 38, Springer Science

Mulders, W.H.A.M., Robertson, D. (2011) Progressive centralization of hyperactivity in the midbrain after acoustic trauma. Neuroscience Accepted 14/06/2011.

Jennifer Rodger, Eleanor S Drummond, Mats Hellström, Donald Robertson, Alan R Harvey (2011) Gene-specific and class-specific changes in the morphology of regenerating retinal ganglion cells after long-term AAV gene therapy (PLoS in press accepted Jan 3rd 2011)

Robertson D, Bester C, Vogler D, Mulders WH Hear Res. (2012) Spontaneous hyperactivity in the auditory midbrain: Relationship to afferent input. Hear. Res. (Epub ahead of print accepted Feb 4th 2012)

Robertson D. and Mulders WHAM. (2012). The inferior colliculus: Involvement in hyperactivity and tinnitus. In: Tinnitus, Eggermont JJ. et al (Eds) Springer Handbook of Auditory Research.

Rodger J, Drummond ES, Hellström M, Robertson D, Harvey AR. Long-term gene therapy causes transgene-specific changes in the morphology of regenerating retinal ganglion cells.PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31061. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

Funding received
NHMRC (currently 2 project grants), Neurotrauma Research Program, Action on Hearing Loss
Ordinary member, Australian Physiological Society
Ordinary member, Australian Neuroscience Society
Ordinary member, American Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Ordinary member American Physiological Society
WA Representative Australian Physiological Society Council 2002-2004
Organizer of APPS Symposium on Mechanotransduction, Nov. 2002
Member of local organizing committee 2005 Australian Neuroscience Society Meeting, Perth
Local Secretary for 2005 Australasian Auditory Neuroscience Workshop
WA Representative Australian Neuroscience Society Council, 2008-.
Current external positions
Board member Ear Sciences Institute Australia
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Last updated:
Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 2:39 PM