Ageing and Neurodegeneration

RESEARCH THEME

Neurodegeneration is the process by which a part of your brain dies as a result of trauma or disease.

There are several well-known diseases where neurodegeneration occurs, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, in which your memory and ability to think are affected, and Parkinson’s disease and related disorders, in which your ability to move is affected.
At present, we don’t know how to prevent or cure neurodegenerative diseases, and our ability to treat them is limited. In most cases, we don’t know what causes these diseases.
Neurodegenerative disorders impact severely on your quality of life, as well as that of your family. The financial cost of these disorders – both to those affected by the disease and the Australian health system – is significant.
At Neuroscience Research Australia, we are identifying the causes of these disorders and are working towards developing better diagnostic methods and improved treatments. As part of this research, we are also examining what happens to the brain as we age.

Dr Moyra Mortby Group

Her research program focuses on neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia and pre-clinical stages of dementia, neuroimaging and epidemiology. Her research program is structured around 4 key areas which aim to: 1) improve our understanding of dementia, its risk factors and trajectories; 2) better understand the impact of neuropsychiatric symptoms on dementia trajectories, quality of life and the provision of formal and informal care; 3) validate the concept of Mild Behavioural Impairment as a pre-clinical stage of dementia; and 4) develop and evaluate interventions to reduce neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with dementia, improve quality of life for people living with dementia and those providing care and develop useful support mechanisms.

Dr Kim Kiely group

Dr Kiely’s research adopts a contextualised perspective to human development across the life-course and spans the fields of life-course epidemiology, social psychiatry, and gero-psychology. His primary research interests cover aspects of healthy and productive ageing, focusing on three main themes: 1. the social, functional and cognitive impacts of sensory loss in late life, 2. inequalities in healthy life expectancy, and 3. social determinants of healthy ageing.

Dr Bill Brooks

His work involves collaboration with the Schofield and Kwok groups for genetic studies and the Halliday group for neuropathological research, as well as the Frontier group for frontotemporal dementia research. Bill is currently working on the DIAN study (Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network), an international study of familial Alzheimer’s disease funded by the US National Institute on Ageing.

Dr Kylie Radford

Our Aboriginal Health & Ageing Research Group examines the role of early-life brain growth, late-life brain decline, risk and behavioural factors and social determinants: in Indigenous and non-Indigenous ageing; in lifespan; and in the epidemiology of cognitive, behavioural and somatic (body) disorders of ageing. The longitudinal NHMRC Sydney Older Persons Study (SOPS – 1992-2003) examined the epidemiology of normal brain ageing and neurodegenerative disorders in non-Indigenous Australians. The Koori Growing Old Well Study (KGOWS – 2008-2016) is examining links between social and bio-medical risks, lifespan and late-life health and cognitive outcomes in five NSW Aboriginal communities; with a current focus on research translation into healthy ageing programs relevant to Indigenous Australians.

Professor Kaarin Anstey Group

This group is an innovative multi-disciplinary team addressing ageing research, with a focus on vital community lifestyle solutions around dementia in the Australian community. Using psychological and population health approaches, her research programs focus on interventions to reduce risk of dementia, cognitive ageing and decision-making, interventions to improve driving skill, and longitudinal studies of health and ageing.

Dr Karen Mather Group

My main research focus is to gain a better understanding of the genetic and environmental factors involved in ageing and age-related disease. The genetic factors that may be involved include variation at the nucleotide level, epigenetic variation, epistasis and gene-environmental interactions. Current research is being undertaken using large population cohorts of older Australians and examining the genetic variation and environmental factors associated with ageing phenotypes.

Dr Claire Shepherd group

The objective of the Sydney Brain Bank, based at Neuroscience Research Australia, is to provide a research resource facility for the collection, characterisation, storage and distribution of human brain tissue for research purposes.

Professor Glenda Halliday group

The Halliday group concentrates on understanding the tissue changes associated with neurodegenerative dementias and movement disorders in order to develop mechanistic treatments and diagnostic tools.

Professor Lars Ittner Group

Ittner Group - Professor Lars Ittner Our research program is focused on two major neurodegenerative disease complexes - Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)/Motor Neuron Disease (MND). Alzheimer's disease is the most prevalent of all neurodegenerative disorders, characterized by a progressive loss of cognition. Frontotemporal dementia is the second most prevalent form of dementia. Motor neuron disease (also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is characterized by rapid degeneration of motor neurons and shares molecular and clinical features with Frontotemporal dementia. More than 200,000 Australians are currently diagnosed with a neurodegenerative condition, causing a huge socio-economic impact. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions and current therapies achieve only very modest symptomatic relief. Understanding how brain function progressively declines and neurons eventually die is the main objective of our research program. This is the paramount first step to develop new therapeutic approaches and drugs.

Professor Tony Broe group

Our Aboriginal Health & Ageing Research Group examines the role of early-life brain growth, late-life brain decline, risk and behavioural factors and social determinants: in Indigenous and non-Indigenous ageing; in lifespan; and in the epidemiology of cognitive, behavioural and somatic (body) disorders of ageing.

Associate Professor John Kwok group

Our genes play an important role in whether we develop neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Our research aims are to identify causative and susceptibility neurodegenerative genes and furthermore, to understand the mechanisms by which genetic alterations in these genes can lead to disease.