Ryugo Lab - Auditory Anatomy & Physiology
Garvan Insititute of Medical Research
Lab Members
David K. Ryugo, PhD
Tan Pongstaporn, BS
Electron Microscopist
Michael Muniak, PhD
Group Leader
Jason Mikiel-Hunter, PhD
Visiting Scientist
Kiera Grierson
Doctoral Student
Yuliya Makeyeva
Doctoral Student
Valentina Vanghi
Research Assistant
Satoshi Nishitani
Honours Student

Lab Alumni


Level 9 Lab 2
384 Victoria St
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
ph: +61 2 9295 8288
fx: +61 2 9295 8281


Michael Muniak, PhD

Group Leader

m.muniak [at] garvan.org.au

I was raised and conditioned in the hinterlands of Boyne City, Michigan. I abandoned this pastoral peninsula, trading in forests and fresh water for rowhouses and low-culture in The Greatest City in America, Baltimore. At (The) Johns Hopkins University, I pursued undergraduate studies in Neuroscience, graduating with honors in 2005. Having not yet had my fill of Charm City, I then spent an additional six years completing my PhD in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with David Ryugo as my mentor. After completing my dissertation (2011), I was packed into a shipping container and followed Dave to the antipodes, where I am a postdoc at the Garvan Institute for Medical Research.

I am fascinated by the brain's remarkable ability to sift through the vast array of information it receives about the environment, in the form of neural spikes, to construct the sense of a coherent and stable reality. My research focuses on dissecting the neural pathways — the 'wiring diagram' of the brain — that transmit information about sound. How are these auditory pathways, and their targets, organized with respect to sensory parameters, such as sound frequency or intensity? How does this organization facilitate sensory processing? Are these pathways altered by damage to the sensory epithelium (the cochlea)?

My relationship with sound does not end at the lab bench. I am a music obsessive, though my preferences tend towards the cultural fringe or 'underground'. Some representative classifications include: musique concrète, Detroit electro, noise, library music, 70's southeast asian psyche, braindance, modern composition, Syrian dabke, etc... and of course, a very special place for the raw energy of Baltimore club. I still buy vinyl, and lots of it. I also moonlight as a 'musician', focusing on experimental electronics. Over the years I have worked at creating spontaneous improvised music using feedback circuits and laptops in both solo and group situations. For seven years, I was a member of the High Zero Foundation, and donated a large portion of my blood, sweat, tears, and general quality of life towards the successful yearly execution of the world renowned High Zero Festival of Experimental Improvised Music, in which I have also performed, repeatedly. This membership was synonymous with the Red Room Collective, which organizes weekly performances of experimental music in Baltimore.

I currently reside in Sydney with my partner, Andrea Claypoole. Together, we enjoy the world — growing food, trekking trails, riding bikes, and soaking up good vibes.

I have an internet uniform resource locator that you can visit.