Dr Rebecca Lim is a Senior Lecturer and chief investigator who is primarily interested in balance and the vestibular system. She also has a strong background in auditory (hearing) research, which involves neighboring regions in the inner ear and brain stem.
Rebecca's most recent work has focused on the function of central vestibular neurons in the brainstem that go on to influence spinal motoneuron and postural muscle activity. In addition, she also leads an NHMRC-funded study that aims to characterise the anatomical and functional development of vestibular hair cells and primary afferent neurons.
Rebecca uses fluorescent immunolabeling paired with cutting-edge microscopy to study the expression of synaptic and neuronal proteins within the inner ear and brain. Like Professor Alan Brichta, she collaborates closely with vestibular experts worldwide as well as other HMRI-affiliated neuroscientists. Lim is currently supervising multiple PhD students, and is the course coordinator of Anatomy for the Biomedical Sciences. Notably, Rebecca is also a faculty member of the Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience (ACAN), a technical training course for early career neuroscience researchers.
How does 'basic science' research – the study of single cells, receptors and neuronal circuits – contribute to the improvement of clinical outcomes for patients with vestibular dysfunction?
Balance is a complex multifaceted sense, comprising sensory hair cells that detect motion, nerve fibres that transmit information to (and from) the brain, and vestibular neurons that process motion signals. Together these components evoke reflexes to maintain visual, postural, and gait stabilisation.
We are still learning how the individual components of the vestibular system interact under normal conditions. This is the first step. Once we know how the normal system works, we go to the next step, and begin to determine the underlying causes of vestibular disorders and develop therapies to minimise the impact of loss of balance function.