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1998 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research Biography

Nick Spencer completed his BSc(Hons) in 1995, then PhD in Neurophysiology in 1998 at the department of Physiology, Monash University, Australia. In 1998, after his PhD, Nick moved to The University of Nevada School of Medicine, where he spent 9 years, initially as a postdoc, then as an Assistant Professor. In 2002, Nick obtained a 5 year NIH grant to study the intrinsic neural circuits in the Enteric Nervous System. In 2007, Nick was offered a tenture-track position to stay at University of Nevada, but took up an academic position at Flinders University.

Since arriving at Flinders University 14 years ago, Nick has been a Chief Investigator on 15 NHMRC project grants and 4 ARC Discovery grants (>8 million AUD). He was Chief Investigator A on 11 of these 19 federally-funded grants. In 2022, he is Chief Investigator A on 2 NHMRC project grants and 2 ARC Discovery grants (as CIA) that involve wireless optogenetic technologies to control the gut-brain axis. In 2018, he published with Dr. Hongzhen Hu, the first wireless optogenetic control of the gut, in the leading journal Gastroenterology. Research in Nick’s laboratory is dedicated to the development of novel techniques that allow previously unresolvable questions to now be addressed with clarity. Many of these techniques are not developed or available in any other laboratory. Research in his laboratory is primarily directed to understanding the neurophysiology basis of pain pathways in visceral organs, and the neural control mechanisms underlying the gut-brain axis. He has published more than 150 peer-reviewed research articles on autonomic neuroscience.

Nick has been a “balanced academic” for the past 14 years at Flinders University, with 40% of his time devoted to research. He was the course coordinator of the Bachelor of Medical Science Degree for 5 years (2011-2015) and remains the coordinator of Medical Neuroanatomy (past 10 years). He continues to teach extensively into the MD degree and Bachelor of Medical Science. 

In 2014, Nick was the Treasurer of the Australasian Neurogastroenterology & Motility Association (ANGMA), then in 2016 was elected President of ANGMA. He has organised many national and international meetings in Australia. He was the Chair of the local organising committee of Federation of Neurogastroenterology & Motility Meeting from 2016-2020.  

Nick's laboratory has worked with, or currently works with a number of drug companies including: Vibrant (Israel), Ironwood (USA), Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK, UK), and Fonterra (N.Z).  Nick has ongoing research collaborations with University of Uppsala, Washington University (St.Louis), Northwestern University, Duke University, University of California San Franscisco, University of Kansas & University of Nevada School of Medicine and Massey University (NZ). 


Research Interests

Understanding the neurophysiological basis of pain pathways in visceral organs, and the neural control mechanisms of the enteric nervous system

Completed Supervisions

Principal Supervisions:
  • Colonic motility (1)
Associate Supervisions:
  • Down sydrome, diabetes (2)
  • Enteric neuroscience, intestinal physiology (1)
  • Enteric neuroscience,sensory neurophysiology (1)
  • Uterine smooth muscle (1)

Education/Academic qualification

Bachelor of Science (Honours), Monash University

PhD, Monash University


  • Registered

Research Areas

  • Medical biosciences

Supervisory Interests

  • Neuroscience
  • Nociception
  • Visceral pain
  • Colonic motility
  • Pain pathways
  • Spinal afferents
  • Smooth muscle excitability
  • Pain processing


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