$4.9 million awarded to brain research

26 Oct 2012

Researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have received a boost in funding thanks to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

A total of $4.9 million was awarded to fund ten projects commencing in 2013.

Among the recipients was Associate Professor Lizzie Coulson, awarded a grant of $824,640 to conduct a study of sleep disturbance and cholinergic degeneration in Alzheimer's disease.

A/Professor Coulson says the grant will explore the connection between disturbed sleep and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.

“Sleep disruption, particularly to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease,” she said.

“The largest class of drugs given to Alzheimer's disease patients aims to increase the function of cholinergic neurons that degenerate early in the disease, but they are also effective in treating sleep disturbance.”

“We hope to determine whether the causes of sleep disturbance also underpin development or progression of Alzheimer’s disease”.

Other recipients of NHMRC funding include:

  • Professor Perry Bartlett
  • Dr Tim Bredy
  • A/Professor Darryl Eyles
  • Professor Geoff Goodhill
  • A/Professor Fred Meunier
  • Professor Linda Richards (x2)
  • A/Professor Naomi Wray (x2)

In addition, Drs Ben Sivyer and Enda Byrne were each awarded a highly competitive CJ Martin Biomedical Overseas Fellowship. These fellowships allow early career scientists to undertake research overseas for two years before returning to Australia to continue their work for a further two years.

Dr Sivyer will be heading to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia where he will investigate how individual neurons in the superior colliculus, an evolutionarily conserved region of the midbrain that mediates the control of head and eye movements, integrate the combined inputs from the retina and the primary visual cortex.

Dr Byrne will endeavour to find new genes for complex disorders focusing on schizophrenia, ADHD and autism at the Center for Applied Genomics under the direction of A/Professor Hakon Hakonarson at the University of Pennsylvania.

Upon his return to QBI, he aims to use the new skills learnt abroad to integrate datasets from multiple technologies to uncover the biological underpinnings of these psychiatric disorders.