Dr Steven Wiederman

Steven Wiederman
Senior Lecturer ARC DECRA
Adelaide Medical School
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Senior Lecturer & ARC DECRA

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Dr Steven Wiederman

Senior Lecturer & ARC DECRA

Lab LogoIn the Visual Physiology and Neurobotics Laboratory (VPNL), we study how the brain processes visual information. Consider a human catching a ball, a dog leaping at a Frisbee or a dragonfly hunting prey amidst a swarm. Brains large and small evolved the ability to predictively, focus attention on a moving target, whilst ignoring distracters and background clutter. We use electrophysiological techniques to investigate how flying insects see the world and build autonomous robots that emulate these neuronal principles. 

We investigate visual processing from behavioural, computational and physiological levels, with a multidisciplinary team covering fields of neuroethology, neurobiology, psychology, computer vision and engineering.

Brain size(1) Capture behavioral data with arrays of medium-speed video cameras.
(2) Use intracellular, recording techniques to characterize neuronal physiology.
(3) Use dye-filling to examine underlying neuronal architecture.
(4) Develop computational models that mimic complex biological behavior.
(5) Design autonomous robots based on bio-inspired sensory and control processes.

Insects have evolved a relatively simple and efficient solution to a task that challenges the most sophisticated robotic vision systems – the detection, selection and pursuit of moving features in cluttered environments. 

modelsWe study a set of neurons from the brain of insects that achieve this visual target-detection task in spectacular fashion. Our most recent work suggests that the insects use sophisticated mechanisms of attention similar to those in primates, to aid in the selection of one feature even in the presence of distracters (e.g. feeding in a swarm). Combining electrophysiological experiments with computational modeling permits us to address research questions, such as:
How do dragonfly target-detecting neurons discriminate moving targets amidst visual clutter whilst in closed-loop pursuit?
How do neuronal responses enable ‘prediction coding’ (estimating target trajectories) and ‘selective attention’ (selecting one target amidst distracters)?

HTauNeurobotics: The physiological data obtained in our laboratory feeds into our robotics projects, as we implement neuronal processing onto an autonomous platform. This research involves computational modelling or hardware development, and is therefore suited to those with mathematical or engineering backgrounds. We work with collaborators in both Mechanical Engineering and Computer Vision on jointly supervised projects. 


Nanoscale Biophotonics: We are investigating the in vivo application of fluorescent nanoparticles for the purpose of recording neuronal function in behaving organisms. This research combines life and physical sciences as we explore properties of the nanoparticles, the tapering of optical fibers and their interaction with nervous tissue. This project is part of the ARC Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics and is in collaboration with the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS).

Media Links:
Wall Street Journal, Scientists Tap Dragonfly Vision to Build a Better Bionic Eye
New York Times, Nature’s Drone, Pretty and Deadly
Science Daily, Dragonflies have human-like 'selective attention'



Date Position Institution name
2016 Senior Lecturer University of Adelaide
2014 - 2015 Lecturer University of Adelaide
2013 - 2014 ARC Senior Research Associate University of Adelaide
2011 - 2012 Postdoctoral Researcher University of Adelaide
2009 - 2011 Associate Lecturer University of Adelaide


Date Institution name Country Title
2006 - 2007 University of Adelaide Australia Graduate Certificate In Education (Higher Ed)
2005 University of Technology, Sydney Australia Bachelor of Medical Sciences
2005 University of Technology, Sydney Australia Bachelor of Engineering (Comp Sys) 1st Class Hons
2005 - 2008 University of Adelaide Australia PhD

Postgraduate Training

Date Title Institution Country
2015 - 2017 ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award University of Adelaide Australia


Date Citation
2017 Bagheri,Z, Wiederman,S, Cazzolato,B, Grainger,S, O'Carroll,D, 2017, Performance of an insect-inspired target tracker in natural conditions, Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, 12, 2, - 10.1088/1748-3190/aa5b48
2017 Rigosi,E, Wiederman,S, O'Carroll,D, 2017, Visual acuity of the honey bee retina and the limits for feature detection, Scientific Reports, 7, - 10.1038/srep45972
2015 Bagheri,ZM, Wiederman,SD, Cazzolato,BS, Grainger,S, O'Carroll,DC, 2015, Properties of neuronal facilitation that improve target tracking in natural pursuit simulations, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 12, 108, 20150083-1-20150083-13 10.1098/rsif.2015.0083
2014 O'Carroll,D, Wiederman,S, 2014, Contrast sensitivity and the detection of moving patterns and features, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences, 369, 1636, 20130043-1-20130043-10 10.1098/rstb.2013.0043
2013 Wiederman,SD, O’Carroll,DC, 2013, Biologically inspired feature detection using cascaded correlations of off and on channels, Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing Research, 3, 1, 5-14 10.2478/jaiscr-2014-0001
2013 Wiederman,S, Shoemaker,P, O'Carroll,D, 2013, Correlation between OFF and ON channels underlies dark target selectivity in an insect visual system, Journal of Neuroscience, 33, 32, 13225-13232 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1277-13.2013
2013 Wiederman,S, O'Carroll,D, 2013, Selective attention in an insect visual neuron, Current Biology, 23, 2, 156-161 10.1016/j.cub.2012.11.048
2012 Horton,D, Wiederman,S, Saint,D, 2012, Assessment outcome is weakly correlated with lecture attendance: influence of learning style and use of alternative materials, Advances in Physiology Education, 36, 2, 108-115 10.1152/advan.00111.2011
2012 Dunbier,J, Wiederman,S, Shoemaker,P, O'Carroll,D, 2012, Facilitation of dragonfly target-detecting neurons by slow moving features on continuous paths, Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 6, OCTOBER 2012, 1-29 10.3389/fncir.2012.00079
2011 Wiederman,S, O'Carroll,D, 2011, Discrimination of features in natural scenes by a dragonfly neuron, Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 19, 7141-7144 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0970-11.2011
2010 Wiederman,S, Brinkworth,R, O'Carroll,D, 2010, Performance of a bio-inspired model for the robust detection of moving targets in high dynamic range natural scenes, Journal of Computational and Theoretical Nanoscience, 7, 5 Sp Iss, 911-920 10.1166/jctn.2010.1438
2008 Wiederman,S, Shoemaker,P, O'Carroll,D, 2008, A model for the detection of moving targets in visual clutter inspired by insect physiology, PLoS One, 3, 7, 1-11 10.1371/journal.pone.0002784

Book Chapters

Date Citation
2012 Wiederman,S, Shoemaker,PA, O'Carroll,DC, 2012, Insect physiology and detection of moving targets, Apple Academic Press, Inc, Oakville, Canada, pp. 148-167

Conference Papers

Date Citation
2016 Evans,B, O'Carroll,D, Wiederman,S, 2016, Salience invariance with divisive normalization in higher-order insect neurons, 6th European Workshop on Visual Information Processing (EUVIP), Marseille, FRANCE 10.1109/EUVIP.2016.7764588
2016 Bagheri,Z, Wiederman,S, Cazzolato,B, Grainger,S, O'Carroll,D, 2016, Robustness and real-time performance of an insect inspired target tracking algorithm under natural conditions, IEEE Symposium Series Computational Intelligence, Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA 10.1109/SSCI.2015.24
2015 Evans,B, Parslow,B, O'Carroll,D, Wiederman,S, 2015, Quantifying asynchrony of multiple cameras using aliased optical devices, International Conference on Image Processing Theory Tools and Applications, Orleans, FRANCE 10.1109/IPTA.2015.7367211
2015 Parslow,B, Evans,B, O'Carroll,D, Wiederman,S, 2015, Multi-focal video fusion with a beam splitter prism, International Conference on Image Processing Theory Tools and Applications, Orleans, FRANCE 10.1109/IPTA.2015.7367209
2014 Bagheri,, Cazzolato,BS, wiederman,, grainger,, O'Carrol,, 2014, An insect inspired object tracking mechanism for autonomous vehicles, 11th International Conference on Informatics in Control, Automation and Robotics (ICINCO), Vienna, Austria
2014 Bagheri,, Wiederman,, Cazzolato,B, Grainger,, O'Carroll,, 2014, Performance assessment of an insect-inspired target tracking model in background clutter, 13th International Conference on Control, Automation, Robotics and Vision (ICARCV 2014), Singapore 10.1109/ICARCV.2014.7064410
2014 Bagheri,Z, Wiederman,SD, Cazzolato,BS, Grainger,S, O'Carroll,DC, 2014, A Biologically Inspired Facilitation Mechanism Enhances the Detection and Pursuit of Targets of Varying Contrast, The 16th International Conference on Digital Image Computing: Techniques and Applications (DICTA), Wollongong 10.1109/DICTA.2014.7008082
2013 Wiederman,S, O'Carroll,D, 2013, Biomimetic target detection: modeling 2nd order correlation of OFF and ON channels, IEEE Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence, Singapore 10.1109/CIMSIVP.2013.6583842
2013 Halupka,K, Wiederman,S, Cazzolato,B, O'Carroll,D, 2013, Bio-inspired feature extraction and enhancement of targets moving against visual clutter during closed loop pursuit, IEEE International Conference on Image Processing (ICIP), Melbourne 10.1109/ICIP.2013.6738844
2013 Shoemaker,P, Wiederman,S, O'Carroll,D, 2013, Can a competitive neural network explain selective attention in insect target tracking neurons?, IEEE EMBS Neural Engineering Conference, San Diego, CA; USA 10.1109/NER.2013.6696081
2011 Halupka,K, Wiederman,S, Cazzolato,B, O'Carroll,D, 2011, Discrete implementation of biologically inspired image processing for target detection, International Conference on Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing (ISSNIP), Adelaide 10.1109/ISSNIP.2011.6146617
2011 Dunbier,J, Wiederman,S, Shoemaker,P, O'Carroll,D, 2011, Modelling the temporal response properties of an insect small target motion detector, International Conference on Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing (ISSNIP), Adelaide, SA 10.1109/ISSNIP.2011.6146600
2011 Wiederman,S, Dunbier,J, O'Carroll,D, 2011, Modeling inhibitory interactions shaping neural responses of target neurons to multiple features, International Conference on Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing (ISSNIP), Adelaide, SA 10.1109/ISSNIP.2011.6146547
2010 Horton,D, Wiederman,S, Saint,D, 2010, Lecture attendance, learning style and assessment outcome in physiology students, ERGA Conference, Adelaide, Australia
2010 Wiederman,S, O'Carroll,D, 2010, Computational modeling of inhibitory interactions underlying neural mechanisms for target discrimination
2008 Wiederman,S, Brinkworth,R, O'Carroll,D, 2008, Bio-inspired small target discrimination in high dynamic range natural scenes, International Conference on Bio-Inspired Computing: Theory and Applications (BIC-TA), Adelaide, Australia 10.1109/BICTA.2008.4656712
2008 Wiederman,S, Brinkworth,R, O'Carroll,D, 2008, Bio-inspired target detection in natural scenes: Optimal thresholds and ego-motion, SPIE Optics and Photonics, Progress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging 10.1117/12.804351
2007 Wiederman,S, Shoemaker,P, O'Carroll,D, 2007, Biological inspired small target detection mechanisms, IEEE Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing, Melbourne 10.1109/ISSNIP.2007.4496855


Date Citation
2009 Wiederman,S; 2009; A neurobiological and computational analysis of target discrimination in visual clutter by the insect visual system

Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award ($359,000), 2015-2017
School of Medical Sciences Kick-Start Awards ($41,000), 2014, 2015
Team Leader, Interdisciplinary Research Funds, The University of Adelaide ($29,000), 2013
Co-CI, Strategic Research Funds from the School of Medical Sciences ($16,500), 2012
Faculty of Health Sciences, International Conference Award ($2400)
3 x Windows on Science (WoS) travel grants from the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (USD$3800), 2008; 2010; 2016
Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing (ARC Node) Project Grant ($2200), 2007

Current Teaching
Course Coordinator, Cellular & Systems Neurobiology
Lecturer in Sensory Systems in the 3rd Year Course Cellular & System Neurobiology
Lecturer in Statistcs & Data Analysis in the 2nd Year Course Experimental Research in Health Sciences (Advanced)

Current Supervision
Principal Supervisor (50%) for PhD student John James (School of Medicine / School of Mechanical Engineering)
Co-Supervisor (20%) for Masters student Mengke Han (IPAS)
Co-Supervisor (20%) for Masters student Omid Alizadeh (Mechanical Engineering)
Principal Supervisor (60%) for PhD student Bernard Evans (School of Medicine)
Principal Supervisor (60%) for PhD student Joseph Fabian (School of Medicine)
Co-Supervisor (30%) for PhD student Zahra Bagheri (Mechanical Engineering / School of Medicine)
Principal Supervisor for Honours student Ben Baden (School of Medicine)

Senior Lecturer ARC DECRA
8313 4435
North Terrace
Medical School South
Room Number
4 22
Org Unit
Medical Sciences