Research into the nervous system, senses & movement.
Theme Leader: William Phillips
Neuroscience is one of the largest and most active areas of scientific research worldwide. This is strongly reflected in the diverse, multidisciplinary group of neuroscience researchers within the Bosch Institute. The Theme includes over 30 laboratories and more than 150 active scientists, including students. Our research interests fall into two broad and overlapping groups.
Fundamental Neurosciences group: these are laboratories revealing new insights into how the brain develops and functions to support healthy, productive lives. Their work includes investigations of how we perceive the world through vision, hearing, and the phenomenon of pain, as well as neural control of blood pressure.
Many laboratories in the Theme are investigating the interactions between nerve and glial cells that underlie formation and retention of skills and memories, shaping our behaviours. Other laboratories study how synaptic connections develop in early life and are affected by disease, drugs and hormones. Several groups study how our interaction with the external world depends upon motor neurons that control muscles to animate the skeleton within each of us when walk, run, jump and write.
Neuroscience of disease group: these laboratories are focused on specific diseases of the nervous system. They apply our current understanding of normal nervous system function, using the best available model systems and clinical samples to advance our understanding of specific disease processes, and therapeutic approaches to effectively counter them.
Every laboratory in the Nervous System, Senses And Movement Theme has collaborations with other groups, with other research themes within the Bosch Institute, and with other scientists nationally and internationally. This includes interactions with the health services and with industry.
Studies of brain function are the most rapidly growing area of biomedical research, triggered by the explosion of new methods, in particular molecular and imaging techniques. Theme groups are at the forefront of many of these technologies. For instance, the Leamey group is focusing on the role of a novel protein in the development of visual pathways while Luke Henderson’s group uses functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore the neural centres underlying chronic pain. The further development of our Bosch Molecular Biology Facility and collaborations with the Brain & Mind Centre (functional MRI facility), will help advance this research.
A second reason for the acceleration of research on the brain is the huge impact of neurological disease on the community. As understanding of brain function improves, the tools to understand neurological disease are emerging and nearly every laboratory in the Theme has interests in disease. Some laboratories have abnormal function as their main focus. For instance, the Harper / Matsumoto laboratory maintains a bank of human brains and studies the effects of alcoholism and schizophrenia on brain structure. The Cullen laboratory has developed a new theory of the causation of Alzheimer's disease in which the central pathological event is capillary microhaemorrhage. If the new aetiology is established it will have a major impact on our understanding of the causes and treatment of the disease. Simon Carlisle’s group is working with an international hearing aid company to apply what they have learnt about the cues for spatial hearing, with the aim of improving the conversations and social interactions of the hearing-impaired. Development and testing of new therapeutic drug treatments for nervous system disorders is another major activity, for example in the Johnston and Vandenberg laboratories.
Impaired mobility is a particular concern, given the growing elderly population. Several Bosch laboratories are focused on multiple weak links that can lead to the loss of mobility and personal independence. These weak links include the control of muscle by motor neurons (Phillips Laboratory), problems with the vestibular organ of the inner ear (essential for balance; The Camp Laboratory) and bone and muscle health, which is a focus of the Mason and Speranza labs. The Donlon laboratory extends bone health to forensic and anthropological studies of bones.
Desired impact on knowledge and/or practice
The Nervous system, senses and movement theme has two core goals:
- a clearer understanding of the fundamental mechanisms in the brain and nervous system through which we perceive and act upon the world. This new knowledge is essential for us to develop new therapeutic approaches to diseases of the nervous system.
- applying our fundamental knowledge with clues from model systems and patient samples to try to understand precisely what is going wrong in diverse diseases of the nervous system, and how these diseases might be overcome.
Neuroscience, tackles complex problems and increasingly demands large-scale collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches. The great scientific tools and facilities of the Bosch Institute draw together hundreds of fundamental and disease-focused researchers and clinicians, helping us to talk to each other and to share diverse insights and ideas. This has already fostered new collaborations to address some big problems of fundamental and applied neuroscience.
Another distinguishing feature of the Bosch Institute is that many of our active researchers are also active teachers of the next generation of biomedical scientists and clinicians. This integration of research and teaching represents our robust commitment to turning new science into improved awareness and better practice.