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Kiernan Group - Professor Matthew Kiernan

The Kiernan Group was established in 2001 with research labs based at NeuRA, the Prince of Wales Hospital, the University of NSW, Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. The 20-strong team of clinicians, scientists, biomedical engineers, psychologists and research students has a multi-focused approach to neurological disease in particular frontotemporal dementia and motor neurone syndromes. The critical areas of investigation are site of onset of disease, the mechanisms of disease, and the progression and spread of disease with the ultimate aim of finding novel treatment strategies including regenerative medicine.


Prof Kiernan’s team has successfully established methods to investigate and diagnose neurological disease, particularly in relation to motor neurone disease (MND). MND is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease. Patients with MND on average die within 1-2 years of diagnosis and the average time to diagnosis is 14 months so this tool is particularly important to facilitate an earlier diagnosis and therefore facilitate treatment. The team’s research innovations have been translated into a cutting-edge diagnostic tool for clinicians in the diagnosis of MND and other neurological disorders. This diagnostic method is now in regular use as an adjunct to routine diagnostic testing in the UK, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Japan and Australia, and is being introduced in the USA.

Click here to access Prof Matthew Kiernan's research papers:

Senior Principal Research Fellow, NeuRA
Conjoint Professor, UNSW Medicine
T: +612 9114 4250
E: m.kiernan@neura.edu.au

Professor Matthew Kiernan is a clinical neurologist and neuroscientist at the forefront of breakthrough research into human neurophysiology, axonal excitability and its disorders. He has established an international track record for research in this area, discovering properties of central and peripheral nerves in healthy subjects and their susceptibility to dysfunction, and most importantly, inventing a diagnostic system for neurological diseases that is now recognized and implemented worldwide.

Professor Kiernan is a Senior Principal Researcher at Neuroscience Research Australia leading a 20-strong team of clinicians, scientists, biomedical engineers, psychologists and research students has a multi-focused approach to neurological disease in particular frontotemporal dementia and motor neurone syndromes. Prof Kiernan is also the Bushell Chair of Neurology at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute, a Conjoint Professor of Medicine at the University of New South Wales and a Professor of Neurology and staff specialist at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Prof Kiernan and his research team have established methods to investigate and diagnose neurological disease, the latter particularly in relation to motor neurone disease (MND). He leads the ForeFront Motor Neurone Disease Research Clinic at the University of Sydney. Prof Kiernan is also the Director of the Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia, the Vice President of the Australian Brain Foundation and the Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Clinical assessment of functional disability in Motor Neurone Disease

This project aims to assess the practical impact of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) on both patients and their family members.

Effects of marine neurotoxins on impulse transmission (tetrodotoxin; ciguatera)

The ingestion of marine animals that contain toxic substances can produce neurological symptoms.

Effects of strict K+ restriction and dialysis treatments on neurological function in chronic kidney disease

Neurological complications are a major cause of disability and dramatically impair quality of life in patients with chronic kidney disease.

Establishment of training programs for health care professionals to look after Motor Neurone Disease patients

This project will focus on developing training programs for health care professionals to look after motor neurone disease (MND) patients both in an inpatient setting and during their transition to hom

Mechanisms of Chemotherapy-induced Neurotoxicity

Nerve damage is a very common side effect of many current cancer treatments, limiting the amount of treatment that patients can receive and often resulting in irreversible damage, leaving patients wit

Mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Motor Neurone Disease

Motor Neurone Disease is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease which is universally fatal.

Natural history of axonal ion channel dysfunction in human diabetic neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a serious complication of diabetes resulting in numbness, pain and weakness in the lower limb and significantly increasing the risk of lower limb ulceration and amputation.

Nerve excitability in spinal cord injury patients

Nerve excitability testing is being applied to spinal cord injury patients to investigate the complex changes in nerve excitability that occur overtime after the injury.

Neuroprotective strategies for chemotherapy-induced neuropathy

Nerve damage is a very common side effect of many current cancer treatments, limiting the amount of treatment that patients can receive and often resulting in irreversible damage, leaving patients wit

Nocturnal hypoventilation in motor neurone disease

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterised by the progressive weakness of voluntary muscles throughout the body.

Novel assessment of functional adaptation and motor plasticity following stroke

The aims of this project are to assess plasticity of the entire neural axis (central and peripheral motor pathways) and how they interact following a stroke.

Pathophysiology of inherited neuropathies

Nerve excitability testing is being applied to people with various types of inherited neuropathy including Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and myotonic dystrophy.

Pathophysiology of Machado-Joseph Disease

Using the combination of novel peripheral axonal excitability and cortical excitability testing, the assessment of the entire motor neurological axis is possible in people with Machado-Joseph Disease.

Pathophysiology of Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Spinal muscular dystrophy is a neuromuscular disorder characterised by muscle weakness and atrophy due to the degeneration of the motor neurons.

Pathophysiology of uraemic neuropathy

Neurological complications are an almost universal side effect of severe kidney disease.

Quality of life in metabolic neuropathies

This study aims to assess the quality of life of patient’s with metabolic neuropathies such as diabetes.

Site of origin of Motor Neurone Disease

MND is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterised by the progressive muscular paralysis caused by the deterioration of motor neurones.

Spinal cord injury & related neurological conditions

Nerve excitability testing is being applied to patients with spinal cord injury and other neurological conditions to provide further information about the functionality of nerves.

The Australian Motor Neurone Disease Registry

The Australian Motor Neurone Disease Registry was launched by Professor Matthew Kiernan on Motor Neurone Disease Global Awareness Day, 21 June 2005, at the Annual Conference for Health and Community C

Research team 
Assoc Prof Matthew Kiernan's picture
Professor Matthew Kiernan
Senior Principal Research Fellow, NeuRA
Conjoint Professor, UNSW Medicine
T: +612 9114 4250
E: m.kiernan@neura.edu.au
Dr Steve Vucic (PhD)'s picture
Assoc Professor Steve Vucic
Research Officer (Hon), NeuRA, PhD FRACP
Director of Neurophysiology, Westmead Hospital
T: +612 9399 1000
E: s.vucic@neura.edu.au
Michelle Farrar's picture
Dr Michelle Farrar
Research Officer (Hon), NeuRA, MBBS, FRACP, PhD
Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick
Susanna Park's picture
Dr Susanna Park
Research Officer, NeuRA (Hon)
T: +612 9382 2413
E: s.park@neura.edu.au

Latest publications

Vucic S, Stein TD, Hedley-Whyte ET, Reddel SR, Tisch S, Kotschet K, Cros D, Kiernan MC. (2012). FOSMN syndrome: Novel insight into disease pathophysiology Neurology 79(1):73-9.

To better define the pathophysiologic mechanisms underlying the development of the novel facial-onset sensory and motor neuronopathy (FOSMN) syndrome and, in particular, to determine whether neurodege

Menezes MP, Waddell LB, Evesson FJ, Cooper S, Webster R, Jones K, Mowat D, Kiernan MC, Johnston HM, Corbett A, Harbord M, North KN, Clarke NF. (2012). Importance and challenge of making an early diagnosis in LMNA-related muscular dystrophy Neurology 78(16):1258-63.

To identify the most useful clinical and histologic markers that facilitate early diagnosis in LMNA-related muscular dystrophy and to assess the usefulness of Western blotting (WB) for lamin A/C.

Farrar MA, Vucic S, Johnston HM, Kiernan MC. (2012). Corticomotoneuronal integrity and adaptation in spinal muscular atrophy Archives of neurology 69(4):467-73.

To gain further insight into disease pathophysiologic process and potential adaptations through investigating whether cortical dysfunction or plasticity is a feature of spinal muscle atrophy (SMA).

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