Shine Lab

Lab head: James 'Mac' Shine
Location: Brain and Mind Center

I am currently in the third year of a National Health and Medical Research Council CJ Martin Fellowship. The first two years of my Fellowship were spent at Stanford University, during which time I worked with Professor Russell Poldrack. Together, we developed novel approaches for tracking the network structure of the human brain during cognitive task performance. This work led to publications in leading journals including Neuron, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and NeuroImage. Other exciting results from our work, notably in exploring the neurobiological basis of cognitive function using causal manipulation and computation modeling approaches, are close to completion but are yet to be published.

Having recently returned from the overseas leg of my fellowship, I now plan to translate the knowledge and skills that I developed while at Stanford to address cognitive and attention impairments across neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. To achieve this aim, I will work closely with Professor Glenda Halliday, an internationally renowned expert on the pathological basis of neurodegenerative disease, and Russell Poldrack, an international expert in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging. Understanding the biological bases of common symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders will provide a crucial platform for the development of novel therapeutic and diagnostic opportunities.

Lab members: Lab Head: Mac Shine Currently searching for enthusiastic honours and graduate students! Please contact me at if you're interested in learning more.
Research approach equipment: We use a combination of functional neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience to understand the brain basis of cognition and attention, both in health and disease

Key recent publications are available at:

Noradrenaline and Cognitive Function – Investigating the forgotten symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Primary supervisor: Mac Shine

Although Parkinson’s disease has been traditionally thought of as a disorder of movement, people with the disease also suffer from impairments in cognitive function. Unfortunately, the classical models that people have used to understand Parkinson’s disease (which predominantly implicate the neurotransmitter, dopamine) are unable to adequately explain how or why these “non-motor” impairments occur, making them difficult to detect and to treat.

Recent work has shown that the cognitive impairments in Parkinson’s disease may relate to pathology within the autonomic ‘arousal’ systems of the brain. These systems rely on a different set of neurotransmitters, such as noradrenaline, which play a crucial role in coordinating normal cognitive function. Thus, impairments in these systems may account for the presence of cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease.

To test this hypothesis, we plan to measure the network signature of the brain while simultaneously tracking ongoing changes in the autonomic arousal system, using non-invasive measures such as pupillometry and blood pressure monitoring paired with functional MRI. A successful student would help to collect peripheral autonomic measures while people with Parkinson’s disease (along with others with different forms of dementia) perform challenging behavioral tasks during functional MRI scanning. We will then use this data to estimate the dynamic network signatures that underlie cognitive processing and relate to noradrenergic ascending arousal systems.

Overall, this project offers an excellent opportunity to learn functional neuroanatomy through novel investigations of the brain using advanced neuroimaging techniques. In addition, the project also represents a great chance to learn a range of clinical skills, to gain experience in the investigation of cognitive performance across multiple neurodegenerative disorders, to analyse physiological signals and to relate these changes to physiological autonomic signals in the brain.

Discipline: Physiology
Co-supervisors: Simon Lewis, Paul Pilowsky, Glenda Halliday
Keywords: Parkinson's disease, Autonomic nervous system, Cognitive disorders