Digitally created image of brain in skull

ForeFront

RESEARCH CENTRE

FTD and MND research group

ForeFront is a collaborative research group in Australia dedicated to the study of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neurone disease (MND).

FTD and MND are a group of disorders identified by distinct clinical signs and symptoms, and/or specific brain pathologies. These disorders are generally rapidly progressing, cause behavioural, language or motor deficits (often in combination), and together are a leading cause of dementia, particularly in people under 65 years of age.

ForeFront is an amalgamate of two government funded research groups:

Frontotemporal dementia and motor neurodegenerative syndromes
This National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) program brings together a team of internationally recognised leaders in clinical, pathological and biological research on FTD and motor neurodegenerative syndromes. Individually these team leaders, along with their research staff, have made significant advances in these diseases, and this program will unify their efforts and focus on translating findings into better clinical information and intervention studies.

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Memory node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders This program investigates the cognitive systems and brain structures underlying various forms of memory, including autobiographical memory, episodic memory and semantic memory. The program uses experimental neuropsychological methods, as well as structural and functional brain imaging in patients with progressive brain pathologies such as frontotemporal dementia. Despite sustained research interest spanning 50 years, the cognitive and neural architecture of episodic and semantic memory systems and the factors that affect their optimal functions are still not fully understood.

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Exploring the electrophysiology and heritability of wellbeing and resilience

The majority of adults without a mental illness still experience poor mental health, indicating a need for a better understanding of what separates mental wellness from mental illness. One way of exploring what separates those with good mental health from those with poor mental health is to use electroencephalography (EEG) to explore differences in brain activity within the healthy population. Previous research has shown that EEG measures differ between clinical groups and healthy participants, suggesting that these measures are useful indicators of mental functioning. Miranda Chilver’s current project aims to examine how different EEG measures relate to each other and to test if they can be used to predict mental wellbeing. Furthermore, she hopes to distinguish between EEG markers of symptoms including depression and anxiety, and markers of positive symptoms of wellbeing to better understand how wellbeing can exist independently of mental illness. This will be done by obtaining measures of wellbeing and depression and anxiety symptoms using the COMPAS-W and DASS-42 questionnaires, respectively. Because EEG measures and mental wellbeing are both impacted by genetics as well as the environment, Miranda will also be testing whether the links found between EEG activity and Wellbeing are driven primarily by heritable or by environmental factors. This information will inform the development of future interventions that will aim to improve wellbeing in the general population. To achieve these goals, the project will assess the relationship between EEG activity and wellbeing, and between EEG and depression and anxiety symptoms to first test whether there is an association between EEG and mental health. Second, the heritability of the EEG, wellbeing, depression, and anxiety will be assessed to determine the extent to which these variables are explained through heritable or environmental factors. Finally, a model assessing the overlap between the heritable versus environmental contributions to each measure will be developed to assess whether genetics or environment drive the relationship between EEG and mental health. This project is based on a sample of over 400 healthy adult twins from the Australian TWIN-E study of resilience led by Dr Justine Gatt. This research will pave the way for improved mental health interventions based on individual needs.
PROJECT