Memory research receives significant boost

Memory researchers at NeuRA have received a significant boost with their successful bid for a national research centre focusing on cognition.

Prof John Hodges and Dr Olivier Piguet, representing NeuRA and the University of NSW, will take part in the new Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders.

“This is the first ARC Centre of Excellence dedicated to neuroscience,” says Dr Piguet. “I think it’s come about now because there’s an awareness that investing resources now in treating, delaying or preventing disorders of cognition will save on healthcare costs in the long run.”

The virtual centre will bring together experts in cognition from across the country, including from Macquarie University and the University of Western Australia, to encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas.

The centre will focus on improving diagnosis and treatment of disorders including dementia, dyslexia, autism and schizophrenia.

“A research hub like this generates a critical mass of researchers so we can study these disorders more quickly,” says Dr Piguet.

As part of the memory node of the centre, Prof Hodges and Dr Piguet will coordinate research on disorders that affect memory, primarily dementia syndromes such as frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“By understanding memory deficits in different types of dementia, we can better characterise and treat these diseases. This research will also allow us to better understand how memory works in healthy people, for example what brain regions are important,” he says.

The centre will receive $21 million in funding from the ARC over seven years, starting in early 2011. Prof Hodges and Dr Piguet will collaborate with Dr Greg Savage from Macquarie University, Dr Laurie Miller from University of Sydney, and Dr Donna Addis from the University of Auckland.