Prof John Hodges

TEAM LEADER PROFILE

Senior Principal Research Fellow, NeuRA Professor of Cognitive Neurology, UNSW
Ex-ARC Federation Fellow

+61 2 9399 1732


John Hodges trained in medicine and psychiatry in London, Southampton and Oxford before gravitating to neurology and becoming enamoured by neuropsychology. In 1990, he was appointed a University Lecturer in Cambridge and in 1997 became MRC Professor of Behaviour Neurology. A sabbatical in Sydney in 2002 with Glenda Halliday rekindled a love of sea, sun and surf which culminated in a move here in 2007 as ARC Federation Fellow and Professor of Cognitive Neurology. He has written 500 papers on aspects of neuropsychology (especially memory and languages) and dementia, plus six books. He co-directs (with Assoc Prof Olivier Piguet) a multidisciplinary research group (Frontier) which focuses on aspects of frontotemporal dementia.

Projects Prof John Hodges is currently involved with

CURRENT PROJECTS

Advancing knowledge on FTD by using a range of research methods

Professor Hodges and his team of researchers aim to advance knowledge on a broad front by using a range of research methods (neuropsychology, behavioural measures, brain imaging, etc) to improve the care, management, and treatment of FTD.

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Advancing knowledge of FTD by using a range of research methods

Brain imaging

This project will contribute to their understanding of the progression of frontotemporal dementia and improve diagnostic accuracy.

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Brain imaging

Caregiver Burden

It is well known that dementia causes distress, especially for family members closely involved with a patient. In FTD, however, little research has been done to understand caregiver stress. By investigating caregiver distress, and combining it with the information we have from the patients, we are able to understand which aspects of the condition are creating more distress for their families.

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Caregiver Burden

Cognition in motor neurone disease

Our group is investigating changes in behaviour and cognition in motor neurone disease and correlating these with neuroimaging findings. The primary aim is to identify the prevalence and pattern of cognitive changes in MND patients, and the potential impact on activities of daily living, decision making and on carer burden.

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Cognition in motor neurone disease

Coping with everyday life disabilities

We are interested in understanding the difficulties patients face in their everyday routines, and why these difficulties occur. Our aim is to develop strategies to overcome these difficulties impacting on everyday life and limit the impact of this disease in both patients' and families' lives.

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Coping with everyday life disabilities

Deficits in emotion processing and autobiographical memory and their impact on carers

How is the processing of emotion impaired in FTD? How does it affect the ability to remember meaningful and important information from one's life? How does it affect interpersonal relationships? How do these deficits evolve with time? These are some of the questions Professor Hodges and his team are trying to answer in this research project.

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Deficits in emotion processing and autobiographical memory and their impact on carers

Genetics of frontotemporal dementia

The laboratory at the NeuRA are conducting longitudinal studies of the first degree relatives of people with these known mutations who are at risk of developing the disease to find the earliest brain changes. We are also looking for new genes responsible for families with FTD & MND. We hope these genetic studies will open doors to a better understanding of the biology of FTD, and eventually treatment.

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Genetics of frontotemporal dementia

Identifying biomarkers in frontotemporal dementia

In order to develop treatments and effective interventions for patients with FTD, the underlying process of brain degeneration needs to be identified early in the disease course. We are investigating protein changes in blood specimens that may tell us about the underlying brain pathology in FTD.

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Identifying biomarkers in frontotemporal dementia

Neuropathology of frontotemporal dementia

Unlike other neurodegenerative conditions, people with FTD may have one of a number different underlying cellular brain changes. Patients followed longitudinally in life are enrolled into the brain bank so that we can gain insights into the pathological processes in FTD.

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Neuropathology of frontotemporal dementia

Eating and metabolic changes in FTD and MND

We have looked at the impact of overeating on body weight, cholesterol and insulin levels and relating all of these changes to regions of brain pathology as demonstrated by MRI imaging. We are now extending these studies to investigate patients with motor neurone disease and with Alzheimer's as well as those at risk of genetic FTD.

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Eating and metabolic changes in frontotemporal dementia and motor neurone disease

RESEARCH TEAM

Christian Leyton

DR CRISTIAN LEYTON Honorary Research Officer

Emma Devenney

DR EMMA DEVENNEY PhD student

PUBLICATIONS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia: distinct and overlapping changes in eating behaviour and metabolism.

Ahmed RM, Irish M, Piguet O, Halliday GM, Ittner LM, Farooqi S, Hodges JR, Kiernan MC

Metabolic changes incorporating fluctuations in weight, insulin resistance, and cholesterol concentrations have been identified in several neurodegenerative disorders. Whether these changes result from the neurodegenerative process affecting brain regions necessary for metabolic regulation or whether they drive the degenerative process is unknown. Emerging evidence from epidemiological, clinical, pathological, and experimental studies emphasises a range of changes in eating behaviours and metabolism in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). In ALS, metabolic changes have been linked to disease progression and prognosis. Furthermore, changes in eating behaviour that affect metabolism have been incorporated into the diagnostic criteria for FTD, which has some clinical and pathological overlap with ALS. Whether the distinct and shared metabolic and eating changes represent a component of the proposed spectrum of the two diseases is an intriguing possibility. Moreover, future research should aim to unravel the complex connections between eating, metabolism, and neurodegeneration in ALS and FTD, and aim to understand the potential for targeting modifiable risk factors in disease development and progression.

The frontotemporal dementia-motor neuron disease continuum.

Burrell JR, Halliday GM, Kril JJ, Ittner LM, Götz J, Kiernan MC, Hodges JR

Assessment of Eating Behavior Disturbance and Associated Neural Networks in Frontotemporal Dementia.

Ahmed RM, Irish M, Henning E, Dermody N, Bartley L, Kiernan MC, Piguet O, Farooqi S, Hodges JR

To define the severity of abnormal eating behavior and sucrose preference and their neural correlates in patients with behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD) and semantic dementia. Marked hyperphagia is restricted to bvFTD, present in all patients with this diagnosis, and supports its diagnostic value. Differing neural networks control eating behavior in patients with bvFTD and semantic dementia and are likely responsible for the differences seen, with a similar network controlling sucrose preference. These networks share structures that control cognitive-reward, autonomic, neuroendocrine, and visual modulation of eating behavior. Delineating the neural networks involved in mediating these changes in eating behavior may enable treatment of these features in patients with complex medical needs and aid in our understanding of structures that control eating behavior in patients with FTD and healthy individuals.

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