Digitally created image of brain in skull



Forefront operates two research clinics with the aim of better understanding frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neurone (MND) syndromes. These clinics allow translation of our research into clinical practice.
1. Our Clinics

FRONTIER is the only dedicated FTD clinic in Australia. It was established by Prof John Hodges in 2007 and receives 80-100 new patients annually for comprehensive research evaluation. Each patient is followed at 6-12 month intervals using clinic or home visits and/or questionnaires. Serial blood samples are collected for the establishment of cell lines, and DNA and serum extraction.

Read more…

2. Cognition and neuroimaging

Assoc Prof Olivier Piquet has 10 years experience in clinical research combined with 20 years experience as a clinical neuropsychologist. Dr Michael Hornberger is an expert in imaging and interested in identifying the neural correlates of behavioural and cognitive symptoms in patients. They combine cognitive, imaging and neuropathological methods in their research.

A 3-Tesla Philips scanner is available at NeuRA to undertake a full range of grey and white matter tract imaging.

We aim to find out which functions of the brain and brain areas are first affected by FTD and MND, and improve clinical diagnostic procedures.

How to get involved?

3. Biospecimens

In order to develop effective interventions for people with FTD, tests to identify the type of cellular changes occurring in the brain need to be developed, especially for those with the initial symptoms of FTD and MND where treatments would be of the greatest benefit. We aim to achieve this by using biospecimens from DNA, blood and brain donations.

Ultimately our goal is to find a cure for these devastating conditions. Our current research goal is to develop an easily identifiable biological marker (a biomarker) that indicates the type of cellular changes occurring in the brain of each patient with FTD. In order to do this, we will be screening blood from people with FTD and MND for a broad array of cellular markers such as proteins that accumulate in the brain, and other molecules associated with cell degeneration. To develop these biomarkers, it is essential to use brain tissue.

How can I donate my brain?

See what’s going on at NeuRA


Abdominal muscle stimulation to improve bowel function in spinal cord injury

Bowel complications, resulting from impaired bowel function, are common for people living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). As a result, people with a SCI have high rates of bowel related illness, even compared with those with other neurological disorders. This includes high rates of abdominal pain, constipation, faecal incontinence and bloating. These problems lower the quality of life of people with a SCI and place a financial burden on the health system. A treatment that improves bowel function for people with a SCI should reduce illness, improve quality of life and lead to a large cost saving for health care providers. Bowel problems have traditionally been managed with manual and pharmacological interventions, such as digital rectal stimulation, enemas, and suppositories. These solutions are usually only partially effective, highlighting the need for improved interventions. The abdominal muscles are one of the major muscle groups used during defecation. Training the abdominal muscles should improve bowel function by increasing abdominal pressure. During our previous Abdominal FES research with people with a SCI, we observed that Abdominal FES appeared to lead to more consistent and effective bowel motion. However, this evidence remains anecdotal. As such, we are going to undertake a large randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of Abdominal FES to improve the bowel function of people with a SCI. This study will make use of a novel measurement system (SmartPill, Medtronic) that can be swallowed to measure whole gut and colonic transit time. We will also assess whether Abdominal FES can change constipation-related quality of life and the use of laxatives and manual procedures, as well as the frequency of defecation and the time taken. A positive outcome from this study is likely to lead to the rapid clinical translation of this technology for people living with a SCI.