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Motor Neurone Disease Research Group

Understanding, preventing and treating neurological disorders

We are working to understand the mechanisms behind a range of neurological conditions, develop novel diagnostic tools and trial new treatment strategies.

We are a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, scientists, biomedical engineers, doctoral and postdoctoral students focused on clinical neurology. In particular, we look at disease pathophysiology and treatment strategies of neurological disorders as well as neuroinflammation and neuropathy (that is, nerve damage).

Currently, we are investigating mechanisms, biomarkers and possible prevention strategies of neurodegeneration in motor neurone disease, frontotemporal dementia, chemotherapy-induced neurotoxicity, stroke, Machado-Joseph disease, spinal muscular atrophy and other inherited neuropathies.

We also conduct clinical trials through the ForeFront Clinic to investigate potential drug treatments for motor neurone disease and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (gradually increasing sensory loss and weakness associated with loss of reflexes). Our research is fully integrated with the ForeFront Clinic which provides clinical services to people living with a range of neurological conditions including nervous system disorders such as motor neurone disease and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. We also work closely with ForeFront’s Frontier Clinic, a research clinic for people with frontotemporal dementia.

Current projects

  • Assessment of nerve and cortical excitability in hereditary and acquired neurological disorders: investigating the primary pathogenesis, development, rate of progression and magnitude of nerve degeneration in a number of hereditary and acquired neurological diseases using nerve and cortical excitability studies.
  • Clinical assessment of functional disability in motor neurone disease: assessing the practical impact of motor neurone disease on patients and their family members.
  • Patient decision making in motor neurone disease: investigating what influences patients’ decision-making for symptom management and quality of life.
  • Identifying clinical markers of C9orf72 mutation carriers: identifying the phenotype of the C9orf72 mutation in patients with motor neurone disease, frontotemporal dementia and FTD-MND.
  • Brain and spinal cord donation for motor neurone disease: understanding the type of cellular changes that occur in the brain and spinal cord to determine treatable cellular causes.
  • Australian Motor Neurone Disease Registry: launched in 2005, this registry strives to improve patient care through continuous evaluation of patient management and outcomes. It also encourages scientific research collaborations to further our understanding of motor neurone disease. Visit the Australian Motor Neurone Disease Registry for more information.
  • Eating, autonomic and sexual dysfunction in frontotemporal dementia and motor neurone disease: reducing the impact of these symptoms on the quality of life of patients and carers by examining their underlying causes using imaging methods and endocrine analysis.
  • Biomarkers for motor neurone disease: developing a biomarker platform to differentiate between clinical, pathological and genetic subtypes and to track changes in the levels of these proteins over time – this could enable early detection and characterisation of motor neurone disease and assist with monitoring future mechanistic therapies.
  • Clinical phenotypes and neurophysiological and immunological biomarkers in patients with inflammatory neuropathies: correlating clinical phenotypes with immunological and neurophysiological profiles associated with inflammatory neuropathies to assist in promoting diagnostic accuracy, assessment of prognosis and predicting response to treatment. We also hope to identify biomarkers that can be used to monitor the response to treatment with IVIg (intravenous immonuglobulin).