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Personal profile


Professor Terence (Terry) OBrien MB, BS, MD, FRACP, FRCPE, FAHMS, FAES is Chair of Medicine (Neurology) and Head of The Central Clinical School, Monash University, and Program Director Alfred Brain and Deputy Director of Research, Alfred Health. He is the former Van Cleef Roet Chair of Neuroscience, Monash University (2017-20) and James Stewart Chair of Medicine, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, University of Melbourne (2008-2017). 

The mission of the Central Clinical that he leads is to undertake high quality, internationally significant, research, research training and teaching across a broad range of basic and clinical medical fields, and to translate these to improve treatment and outcomes of patients. The School has 16 Departments and Centres (https://www.monash.edu/medicine/ccs/centres), and is part of the Sub-Faculty of Translational Medicine and Public Health led by Foundation Dean, Professor Stephen Jane.


Prof. O'Brien has received 18 awards for his research from national and international scientific bodies, including the Ambassador for Epilepsy Award of the International League Against Epilepsy (2017), The Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award of the American Academy of Neurology (2006), The Eccles Lecturer and Medallion of The Australian Neuroscience Society and The Neurosurgical Society of Australia (2011), Election as Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (2016), The Fritz E. Dreifuss Lecture and Award of The American Epilepsy Society (2022) and The James Lance Oration and Award, the highest award of The Australian and New Zealand Association of Neurologists (2023). Prof. O’Brien has trained students and fellows from many countries of the world, including Holland, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Brazil, Israel, India, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia and China.

He has supervised to completion 49 doctoral students, 11 masters students, 70 honours/medical research students, 28 clinical epilepsy fellows and 21 post-doctoral research fellows. He is currently supervising 20 PhD students, 1 Masters Students (MPhil), 1 undergraduate/medical students, 6 clinical epilepsy fellows and 14 post-doctoral research fellows. Many of his former students/fellows have gone on to obtain independent NHMRC funding, or the equivalent, for their research, and to be significant research and/or clinical leaders in their own right.

Research interests

Professor Terence J. O’Brien is a specialist in neurology and clinical pharmacology, with particular expertise in epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases, neuropharmacology, pre-clincal and clinical drug development, and in-vivo imaging in animal models and humans. He did his clinical and research training at St. Vincent’s and Royal Melbourne Hospitals in Melbourne, and then the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA (1995-1998). He is the immediate past President of the Epilepsy Society of Australia (ESA).

His research is truly translational, extending from basic discovery research with a focus on utilizing clinically relevant chronic animal models, through to clinical research (clinical trials and cohort studies). His research goal is to generate new knowledge that will enable transformational, precision medicine based, care for people with epilepsy and related brain diseases. His program starts at the bedside with recognition of the current major treatment gaps for patients. He has published over his career 718 peer-reviewed papers which have been highly impactful in the field (cited 32,657 times, Google Scholar August 2023; (https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=83LmNvMAAAAJ&hl=en).

The impact of his research has included the development and application of novel imaging approaches to localise the epileptogenic zone and enable more patients to progress to epilepsy surgery with better outcomes, including being the inventor of the SISCOM (Subtraction Ictal SPECT Coregistered to MRI) technique that is now a routine part of the epilepsy surgery evalulation. The application of in-vivo neuroimaging to animal models of brain injury and epileptogenesis, pioneering applying serial small animal in vivo imaging (MRI and PET) to the study of chronic, progressive neurodegenerative conditions, in particular epilepsy and TBI. Generating new knowledge on the effects of exposure to anti-epileptic drugs on the developing foetus, including co-leading the Australian Pregnancy Register (APR) of AEDs research from which was the first report that there was a dose valproate, above which the risk of major birth defects increased several fold which has changed practice worldwide and reduce adverse outcomes for women with epilepsy and their children. The pre-clinical and clinical development of novel therapies for epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases, including neuropeptide Y-based approaches, selective low-threshold calcium channel blockers (Z944) and targeting hyperphosphorylated tau with sodium selenate. Importantly, he has successfully taken the outputs of basic research from my group, and that of collaborators, into early stage clinical trials. Also, the development and application of bioengineering devices to improve the quality of life of patients with chronic neurological disorders. This includes devises designed to detect and predict seizures, to act as brain computer interfaces for bionic technology, and devices for brain stimulation to improve neurological functioning. This involves both pre-clinical testing and development, as well has human clinical trials.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

External positions

President, Epilepsy Society of Australia

1 Nov 2018 → …

Program Director, Alfred Brain, Alfred Hospital

1 Jul 2018 → …

Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne

1 Dec 2017 → …

Director of Neurology, Alfred Hospital

1 Oct 2017 → …

Research area keywords

  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • traumatic brain injury
  • stroke
  • brain tumours
  • neuroinflammation
  • epilepsy
  • Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • cognitive disorders

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or