UQ research delves further into the mysteries of the brain

10 Nov 2008

Researchers from UQ's Queensland Brain Institute will delve further into the mysteries of how our brains works thanks to more than $7.5m in funding.

The grant, totalling $7,627,200, is part of National Health and Medical Research Council Program Grant funding announced today and is aimed at understanding how new cells are generated in the adult brain and how they produce functional changes.

A team led by QBI's Director's Professor Perry Barrtlett will use advanced imaging techniques to better understand how neurons integrate into the brain.

Professor Pankaj Sah, one of four chief investigators, said the funding was a renewal of an existing project that had already unlocked many secrets of our most vital organ. Other chief investigators are Professors Seong-Seng Tan and Trevor Kilpatrick from the Howard Florey Institute.

“Our understanding of the brain has come a fair way in the past few years,” Professor Sah said.

“We have identified how new cells are born in our brain as adults and how they integrate into the neural circuitry. Our new focus is looking at behavioural outcomes and how those new cells become parts of our learning and memory functions.”

He described the work as trying to find out how new cogs can be added to an existing machine without “throwing a spanner in the works”.

“This will not only help us understand how the brain develops and how we learn and remember, but also how the brain recovers after disruptions such as stroke and dementias such as Alzheimer's disease affect those processes,” he said.

Professor David Siddle, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), said the funding would take UQ research to another level.

“Understanding the brain and how it functions is one of the last frontiers of medical science,” Professor Siddle said.

“This research will bring us a step closer to learning what it is that makes this organ unique among the many in our amazingly complex bodies.

“I would also congratulate the other UQ researchers who received funding in such a highly competitive grant environment.”

Professor Matt Brown, from UQ's Diamantina Institute, was another researcher to receive funding today, looking at the genes associated with osteoporosis, which could be used to develop predictive tests and new treatments.

Professor Brown received $800,000 in an EU Collaborative Grant that will see him working with colleagues in Australia and Europe.

Five UQ researchers have also been awarded NHMRC Research and Practitioner Fellowships as part of the funding announcement: Professor David Craik, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience; Associate Professor Joseph Lynch, from the Queensland Brain Institute; Associate Professor Alexander Khromykh, from the School of Molecular & Microbial Sciences; Associate Professor Frederic Meunier, from the Queensland Brain Institute; and Associate Professor Timothy Florin, from the School of Medicine.


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Notes to the Editor
The Queensland Brain Institute was formed in 2003 as part of the Queensland Government’s Smart State Initiative, building on a long history of neuroscience at The University of Queensland. QBI is dedicated to understanding the molecular basis of brain function and applying this knowledge to the development of new therapeutics to treat brain and mental health disorders.