Melanopsin Photoreception and Visual Science Research Laboratory
The Melanopsin Photoreception and Visual Science Research Laboratory is a leading international site for the basic science and clinical investigation of human melanopsin function.
Melanopsin expressing Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGCs) are the fifth photoreceptor class in the human retina, after the rods and thee cone classes; ipRGCs may be the scarcest of all photosensitive cells (~3000 in a primate eye), but this ancient pathway with its high sensitivity to bluish-cyan appearing light (~480nm) has significant consequences for visual and non-visual functions affecting health and well-being.
Beatrix Feigl, MD, PhD and Andrew J. Zele, PhD are the research group co-leaders. Our QUT group members include Dr Prakash Adhikari, Drew D. Carter, Dr Subodh Gynawali, Samir Uprety, Thomas Nugent and Aniruddha Banjerjee.
Dr Feigl received her medical degree and training as a specialist in ophthalmology at the Medical University of Graz, Austria, and completed her PhD in Australia (QUT). She has undertaken fellowships at the University of Tübingen, Germany and the Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute (USA).
Dr Zele completed his doctoral training at the University of Melbourne, followed by post-doctoral appointments at Melbourne, at the University of Chicago (USA) and the Illinois College of Optometry. He is the recipient of two prestigious Australian Research Council Fellowships (APD, FT).
The research team has authored over 135 peer-reviewed publications, with more than 40% of these involving international collaborations. Their research findings have been disseminated through invited keynote lectures and specialist meetings in national and international forums.
Photo: QUT Melanopsin Photoreception and Visual Science Research group
Central to our research is the development of new instrumentation (e.g. pupillometry, 5-primary spatial light modulator, PELT device) and methods (e.g. wnERG, individual observer calibrations) to support innovative approaches to unmask human melanopsin photo-processes. This includes a focus on techniques to separate the retinal signals originating in the melanopsin, rhodopsin and cone-opsin photoreceptor to study ipRGC projections to brain regions mediating the effects of light on circadian rhythms, the pupil light reflex, vision and mood. A patent has been examined for a method, system, and device for generating biologically directed artificial lighting.
Together, the team is responsible for fundamental advances in understanding the melanopsin pathway in human vision, independent of the canonical rod and cone mediated functions. We have established the melanopsin contributions to the perception of scene brightness and photophobia, for colour vision, temporal processing, adaptation, speeded responses, during decision making, and how melanopsin controls rod and cone-mediated contrast sensitivity.
Dr Zele is also recognised for his key contributions to understanding the retinal processes modulating human vision under dim (mesopic) lighting conditions, and his attention to novel human centric lighting modalities for enhancing visual performance in the built environment.
Photo: Professor Andrew J. Zele, PhD
Medical Retina Research
Our wide-ranging clinical and basic science studies of the afferent pupil control pathway have contributed directly to the establishment of new objective biomarkers of human melanopsin function, and which is now part of an international standard recommended for clinical and basic science use (doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00129). Our translational studies were the first to quantify melanopsin function in glaucoma, in diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, depression, migraine and Parkinson’s disease, and established the contribution of melanopsin to sleep disruption in people with neuroretinal and neurodegenerative disorders.
In a series of clinical experiments, Dr Feigl identified ischemia as a contributing factor to age-related macular degeneration (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.preteyeres.2008.11.004). These fundamental studies of the pathomechanisms of age-related macular degeneration has directly contributed to the successful translation of the multifocal electroretinogram (mfERG) technology to patients with AMD.
For over two decades, our research outcomes have emphasised the development and application of novel technologies to understanding the pathomechanisms of retinal disease, its early detection and monitoring, and for the development and implementation of novel treatments in eye disease.
Dr Feigl’s discoveries have been translated from laboratory to bedside through clinical studies. Her research provided the foundation for the development and application of a new personalised light therapy (the PELT device) that is currently implemented in a TGA regulated double blind, randomized phase 2 clinical trial (ACTRN12621000077864) “Photoreceptor directed light therapy in Parkinson’s disease”.
Photo: Associate Professor Beatrix Feigl, MD, PhD
In collaboration with Prakash Adhikari and Drew Carter, a chart-based measure of the limits of human spatial vision was developed for application in clinical settings to detect subtle vision loss (https://doi.org/10.1111/opo.12914).
Photo: The QUT combined spatial-contrast and visual acuity chart
We gratefully acknowledge national and international research support through the Australian Government (Australian Research Council, ARC; National Health & Medical Research Council, NHMRC), philanthropic and professional organisations, private foundations, the ophthalmic and lighting industry, Retina Australia, the Austrian Ophthalmological Society (ÖOG) and the Michael J Fox Foundation.
We welcome new academic and industry collaborations, and enquiries for PhD positions or post-doctoral appointments. If you are interested in participating in our research (in Brisbane), please reach out to us. Dr Feigl (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr Zele (email@example.com).
Selected Publications (available for download via QUT ePrints):
Medical Retina Research and Clinical Trials
Feigl B, Dumpala S, Kerr G, Zele AJ (2020). Melanopsin cell dysfunction is involved in sleep disruption in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Parkinson’s Disease 10(4):1467-1476. https://doi.org/10.3233/JPD-202178
Feigl B, Ojha G, Hides L, Zele AJ (2018). Melanopsin-driven pupil response and light exposure in non-seasonal major depressive disorder. Frontiers in Neurology. 2018 Sep 13;9:764. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2018.00764
Maynard ML, Zele AJ, Kwan A, Feigl B (2017). Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cell function, sleep efficiency and depression in advanced age-related macular degeneration. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 58(2):990-996. https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.16-20659
Feigl B, Mattes D, Thomas R, Zele A (2011). Intrinsically photosensitive (melanopsin) retinal ganglion cell function in glaucoma. Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science, 52:4362-4367. https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.10-7069
Feigl B (2009). Age-related maculopathy-linking aetiology and pathophysiological changes to the ischaemia hypothesis. (INVITED REVIEW). Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, 28:63-86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.preteyeres.2008.11.004
Adhikari P, Carter DD, Feigl B, Zele AJ (2022). Design and validation of a chart-based measure of the limits of spatial contrast sensitivity. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics. 42. 110-121. https://doi.org/10.1111/opo.12914
Kelbsch C, Strasser T, Chen Y, Feigl B, Gamlin PD, Kardon R, Peters T, Roecklein K, Steinhauer S, Szabadi E, Zele AJ, Wilhelm H, Wilhelm B. (2019). Standards in Pupillography. Frontiers in Neurology. 10:129. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2019.00129
Zele AJ, Dey A, Adhikari P, Feigl B (2021). Melanopsin hypersensitivity dominates interictal photophobia in migraine. Cephalalgia. 41. 217-226. https://doi.org/10.1177/0333102420963850
Uprety S, Adhikari P, Feigl B, Zele AJ (2022). Melanopsin photoreception differentially modulates rod- and cone-mediated human temporal vision. iScience. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2022.104529
Gnyawali S, Feigl B, Adhikari P, Zele AJ (2022). The role of melanopsin photoreception on visual attention linked pupil responses. European Journal of Neuroscience. 55.1986-2002. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.15659
Zele AJ, Gamlin PD. (2020). Editorial: The Pupil: Behavior, anatomy, physiology and clinical biomarkers. Frontiers in Neurology. 11:211. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2020.00211
Zele AJ, Adhikari P, Cao D, Feigl B. (2019). Melanopsin driven enhancement of cone-mediated visual processing. Vision Research. 160. 72-81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2019.04.009
Zele AJ, Adhikari P, Cao D, Feigl B. (2019). Melanopsin and cone photoreceptor inputs to the afferent pupil light response. Frontiers in Neurology. 10:529. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2019.00529
Adhikari P, Zele AJ, Cao D, Kremers J, Feigl B. (2019). The melanopsin-directed white noise electroretinogram. (wnERG). Vision Research. 164. 83-93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2019.08.007
Zele AJ, Adhikari P, Feigl B, Cao D. (2018). Cone and melanopsin contributions to human brightness estimation. Journal of the Optical Society of America A. 35(4). B19-B25. https://doi.org/10.1364/JOSAA.35.000B19
Zele AJ, Feigl B, Adhikari P, Maynard ML, Cao D. (2018). Melanopsin photoreception contributes to human visual detection, temporal and colour processing. Scientific Reports. 8.3842. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-22197-w
Adhikari P, Zele AJ, Feigl B. (2015). The post-illumination pupil response (PIPR). Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 56. 3838-3849.
Zele AJ, Cao D. (2015). Vision under mesopic and scotopic illumination. Frontiers in Psychology. 5:1594. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01594