Sarah Etherington  from Murdoch University in Perth Australia.

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    Dr Sarah Etherington
    BSc.Hons (Neuroscience), PhD

    Senior Lecturer in Physiology

    About me

    I completed a Bachelor of Science (Neuroscience) with First Class Honours at The University of Western Australia and went on to complete a PhD in neuroscience within the physiology department at UWA in 2006.  From 2007-2008, I worked as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Professor Stephen Williams’ laboratory at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge UK.  I came to Murdoch University in late 2008, and am now a Senior Lecturer in Physiology in the College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education. In 2019, I took on the role of Learning Lead for the Discipline of Medical, Molecular and Forensic Sciences.


    Teaching area

    My main teaching contribution is as the unit coordinator for BMS206 (Biomedical Physiology) and VLS302 (Professional Placements in Veterinary and Life Sciences).  I also contribute to other undergraduate physiology units delivered by the College of SHEE (BMS107 Principles of Vertebrate Physiology, VET271 Veterinary Structure and Function II) and to teaching medical physiology as part of a collaboration between Murdoch University and The University of Notre Dame (Fremantle).

    I have a particular interest in training research students.  My Honours students, past and present are:

    Huey Sian YAP (2010-2011).  Characterising the role of nerve growth factor in nociception during osteoarthritis.  Supervisors:  Dr Sarah Etherington, Dr Julia Inglis (UWA).

    Ivan Hee Kean HONG (2010-2011). Neuromuscular junction development in the western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus). Supervisors: Dr Sarah Etherington, Dr Natalie Warburton (Murdoch), Dr Nahiid Stephens (Murdoch)

    Carmen Jing Wen WONG (2011-2012). An investigation into hindlimb muscle populations with cifferent rates of synapse maturation in the western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus). Supervisors: Dr Sarah Etherington, Dr Natalie Warburton (Murdoch), Dr Nahiid Stephens (Murdoch)

    Maria WENNER (2012). Investigation of the interaction between α1-adrenoceptors and nociceptive signalling in neuronal cell cultures.  Supervisors: Dr Sarah Etherington, Prof Peter Drummond (Murdoch), A/Prof Ian Mullaney (Murdoch).

    Wilford Wei Qiang GOH (2012) In-vitro conditioning of murine naive B lymphocytes: Directing differentiation towards IgA-secreting plasma cells. Supervisors: Dr Phil Stumbles (Murdoch), E/Prof John Penhale (Murdoch), Dr Sarah Etherington .

    Simone NAIDOO (2012). Assessing intracellular calcium levels in HEK cells expressing NCX binding peptides. Supervisors: Dr Sarah Etherington, Adj/A/Prof Bruno Meloni (ANRI)

    Anthony BUZZAI (2013). The role of small leucine rich proteins in ostoblast and ostoclast cells. Supervisors: Dr Sarah Etherington, Dr Joshua Lewise (SCGH), Prof Richard Prince (SCGH)

    Helena MORTON (2014). Novel biomarkers of chronic kidney disease in elderly women. Supervisors: Dr Sarah Etherington, A/Prof Wai H Lim (UWA, SCGH), Dr Joshua Lewis (UWA, SCGH), Professor Richard Prince (UWA, SCGH)

    Bhedita SEEWOO (2016). Resting state fMRI study of brain activation using rTMS in rats. Supervisors: Dr Sarah Etherington, A/Prof Jenny Rodger (UWA), Dr Kirk Feindel (CMCA)

    David GERARD (2019-).  Impact of Pulsed Magnetic Fields on the Organisation of Perineuronal Nets in the Rodent Brain. Supervisors: Dr Sarah Etherington, Associate A/Prof Jenny Rodger (UWA/Perron)

    Research areas

    My neuroscience research is focused on the mechanisms controlling the strength of synaptic connections (the sites at which signals are exchanged between different nerve cells) and how modulation of synaptic strength impacts on brain function. I transitioned to a Teaching Scholar work profile in late 2018 and am expanding my scholarship of undergraduate physiology education.


    Current projects

    Neural effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation

    My current disciplinary research focus is the effects of pulsed magnetic fields on brain function. Pulsed magnetic fields (e.g. transcranial magnetic stimulation) have long been used as a treatment for disorders of human brain function (e.g.depression). Surprisingly, the mechanisms by which pulsed magnetic fields exert their clinical benefits on brain tissue remain poorly understood. I am involved in a cross-institutional collaboration to document the specific effects of pulsed magnetic fields on nerve cells.  Work at Murdoch has used patch clamp electrophysiology to assess how pulsed magnetic fields affect the electrical excitability of nerve cells, and metabolomics to identify changes in chemical signalling occurring in neural networks in response to magnetic fields. We are currently using fMRI technology to continue this path of investigation.

    Collaborators: A/Prof Jennifer Rodger (UWA),  A/Prof Ian Mullaney (Murdoch), Dr Garth Maker (Murdoch), Dr Kirk Feindel (UWA)

    Internationalisation of Physiology Education

    This project has been ongoing since 2013, and is aimed at supporting engagement between domestic and international students. The project is currently focused on investigating practices around, and barriers to, internationalisation of the tertiary physiology curriculum, summarised below:

    Internationalization of the curriculum has widespread benefits for student learning and engagement (Arkoudiset al., 2010). However, cross-disciplinary research suggests that science academics are reluctant to internationalise their courses. This study investigated attitudes to internationalisation of physiology education (defined as the process of incorporating an international, intercultural and global dimension into the purpose, functions, delivery and/or outcomes of a physiology program, after Leask, 2015), among tertiary physiology educators.

    An online survey, incorporating both fixed and open-ended questions, targeted at tertiary physiology educators with > 5 yrs teaching experience, was conducted from June – August 2018 (Murdoch University Human Ethics Permit 2018/049). The survey was disseminated via email to colleagues in physiology education, mailing list announcements and snowball sampling. Twenty anonymous responses were collected, mostly from individuals working at Australian institutions (n = 17). Respondents generally taught physiology across at least two courses, most commonly medicine/dentistry and biomedical science (n = 11 respondents).

    Most respondents agreed that instruction around internationalisation is a responsibility of Universities and should be incorporated into a degree program. Respondents described modest internationalisation of their physiology teaching (3 of 7 examples of internationalisation engaged in to a moderate extent, or more, by at least half of respondents).  This was despite only half of respondents agreeing that physiology students would need skills around internationalization (e.g. intercultural communication) upon graduation.  The latter result was somewhat surprising given that the primary courses identified by respondents were sciences, where international mobility is very common, and health professions that routinely engage with culturally diverse patients.

    When asked where internationalisation should sit within a course structure, only 1 out of 20 respondents agreed that internationalisation should be developed in physiology units. The majority view was to internationalise most units in a degree, but not the physiology units.  It is proposed that physiology educators will have to share the institutional responsibility towards internationalisation of the curriculum, because many other units in degrees that include physiology would face similar challenges to internationalisation.  Based on these results, internationalisation of physiology education in the future is likely to depend on (i) internationalisation strategies that are feasible within the time-constraints in content-driven units and (ii) the ability of physiology educators to access institutional support to internationalise their teaching.

    Arkoudis S, Baik C, Chang S, Lang I, Watty K, Borland H, Pearce A, Lang J. (2010) Finding Common Ground: Enhancing Interaction Between Domestic and International Students. Australian Learning & Teaching Council.

    Clifford VA. (2009) Engaging the disciplines in internationalising the curriculum. Int J Acad Dev14: 133–143.

    Leask, B., 2015. Internationalizing the curriculum. Oxford: Routledge.







    Awards and grants

    • Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australia (HERDSA) Fellowship (2018-present)
    •  Medical Educator of the Year Award (1st Year), The University of Notre Dame Fremantle (2018, 2019)
    • Office of Learning and Teaching (Australia) Citation for Excellence in Enhancing Learning (2012)
    • Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence in Enhancing Learning (2012)
    • McCusker Charitable Foundation Early Career Researcher Support. Mapping information flow through the developing cortex. S Etherington, S Williams, J Rodger. (2011)
    • McCusker Charitable Foundation Early Career Researcher Support. Neuromuscular junction development in Australian marsupials.  N Warburton, S Etherington (2011)
    • ANZCA Project Grant. Mechanism of adrenergic hyperalgesia in the partial sciatic nerve ligation model of neuropathic pain. P Finch, P Drummond, J Inglis, S Etherington, S Williams (2010)


    Professional and community service

    Learning Lead for Medical, Molecular and Forensic Sciences (June 2019 – present).

    Member College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education Academic Committee (June 2019 – present).

    Member Murdoch Learning Excellence Academy Executive Committee (December 2018 – present).

    Member School SAGE Athena SWAN Committee (2018)

    Member University Teaching Excellence Committee (February 2016 -present).

    Doctoral and masters supervisions

    Bhedita Jaya SEEWOO (2017-) Using MRI for in-vivo study of the effects of low-intensity repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on brain activity and structure in rodents. Supervisors: Assoc Prof Jennifer Rodger (UWA), Dr Kirk Feindel (UWA), Dr Sarah Etherington (Murdoch). Submission Expected 2020.

    Sasha DORRON (2016-). An exploration of pain sensitivity and low back pain presentations, including responses to spinal manipulative therapy. Supervisors: Assoc Prof Bruce Walker (Murdoch), Adjunct Prof Charlotte Leboeuf-Yde (Murdoch), Dr Sarah Etherington (Murdoch). Submission Expected 2019.

    Dr Ianthe PITOUT (completed 2019). Application of antisense oligomers (AOs) to modifiers of the Survival motor neuron 2 (SMN2) gene in order to reduce the severity of Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).   Supervisors: Prof Sue Fletcher (Murdoch), Prof Steve Wilton (Murdoch), Dr Sarah Etherington (Murdoch). 



    • Hong, I., Etherington, S., (2011),Neuromuscular Junction,In: Encyclopaedia of Life Sciences, John Wiley & Sons, pages 1 to 10.
    • Etherington, S., Atkinson, S., Stuart, G., Williams, S., (2010),Synaptic Integration,In: Encyclopaedia of Life Sciences, John Wiley & Sons, pages to.


    • Aspinall, S., Jacques, A., Leboeuf-Yde, C., Etherington, S., Walker, B., (2020), Pressure pain threshold and temporal summation in adults with episodic and persistent low back pain trajectories: A secondary analysis at baseline and after lumbar manipulation or sham, Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, 28, 1, pages -.
    • Aspinall, S., Leboeuf-Yde, C., Etherington, S., Walker, B., (2020), Changes in pressure pain threshold and temporal summation in rapid responders and non-rapid responders after lumbar spinal manipulation and sham: A secondary analysis in adults with low back pain., Musculoskeletal Science & Practice, 47, June 2020, pages 102137 -.
    • Aspinall, S., Leboeuf-Yde, C., Etherington, S., Walker, B., (2019), Manipulation-induced hypoalgesia in musculoskeletal pain populations: a systematic critical review and meta-analysis, Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, 27, 7, pages 1 - 19.
    • Aspinall, S., Jacques, A., Leboeuf-Yde, C., Etherington, S., Walker, B., (2019), No difference in pressure pain threshold and temporal summation after lumbar spinal manipulation compared to sham: A randomised controlled trial in adults with low back pain, Musculoskeletal Science & Practice, 43, OCT 2019, pages 18 - 25.
    • Seewoo, B., Feindel, K., Etherington, S., Rodger, J., (2019), Frequency-specific effects of low-intensity rTMS can persist for up to 2 weeks post-stimulation: A longitudinal rs-fMRI/MRS study in rats., Brain Stimulation, 12, 6, pages 1526 - 1536.
    • Aspinall, S., Leboeuf-Yde, C., Etherington, S., Walker, B., (2019), Feasibility of Using the Neuropen for Temporal Summation Testing., Pain Management, 9, 4, pages 361 - 368.
    • Seewoo, B., Etherington, S., Feindel, K., Rodger, J., (2018), Combined rTMS/fMRI Studies: An Overlooked Resource in Animal Models, Frontiers in neuroscience, 12, 180, pages -.
    • Seewoo, B., Feindel, K., Etherington, S., Rodger, J., (2018), Resting-state fMRI study of brain activation using low-intensity repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in rats, Scientific Reports, 8, 1, pages 6706 -.
    • Hong, I., Garrett, A., Maker, G., Mullaney, I., Rodger, J., Etherington, S., (2018), Repetitive low intensity magnetic field stimulation in a neuronal cell line: a metabolomics study, PeerJ, 2018, 3, pages 4501 -.
    • Meyer, A., Meyer, A., Etherington, S., Leboeuf-Yde, C., (2017), Unravelling functional neurology: a scoping review of theories and clinical applications in a context of chiropractic manual therapy., Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, 25, 1, pages 19 -.
    • Etherington, S., Hong, I., Wong, C., Stephens, N., Warburton, N., (2016), Heterochronic neuromuscular junction development in an Australian marsupial (Macropus fuliginosus), Journal of Zoology, 300, 1, pages 27 - 35.
    • Tang, A., Hong, I., Boddington, L., Garrett, A., Etherington, S., Reynolds, J., Rodger, J., (2016), Low-intensity repetitive magnetic stimulation lowers action potential threshold and increases spike firing in layer 5 pyramidal neurons in vitro, Neuroscience, 335, , pages 64 - 71.
    • Etherington, S., Johnstone, V., Everett, A., (2014), Modulation of Synaptic Vesicle Exocytosis in Muscle-Dependent Long-Term Depression at the Amphibian Neuromuscular Junction, PLoS One, 9, 1, pages 0 - 0.
    • Etherington, S., (2014), But science is international! Finding time and space to encourage intercultural learning in a content-driven physiology unit, Advances in Physiology Education, 38, 2, pages 145 - 154.
    • Etherington, S., Williams, S., (2011), Postnatal development of intrinsic and synaptic properties transforms signaling in the layer 5 excitatory neural network of the visual cortex, The Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 26, pages 9526 - 9537.
    • Etherington, S., Everett, A., (2004), Postsynaptic production of nitric oxide implicated in long-term depression at the mature amphibian (Bufo marinus) neuromuscular junction., Journal of Physiology (London), 559, , pages 507 - 517.