University of Sydney launches Brain and Mind Centre

28 July 2015

Premier Mike Baird today launched the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre, bringing together leading scientists nationally and internationally to address critical health issues of the 21st century - disorders of the brain and mind.

The Premier said that through partnership with the Brain and Mind Centre, the NSW Government is embarking on a once-in-a-generation series of health and welfare system reforms, aimed to reduce over-reliance on crisis care and other hospital-based services. This new approach will strengthen community-based support for people who experience conditions that include clinical depression, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, autism, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and drug addiction.

"The Brain and Mind Centre will ensure that we have access to the best quality research available to help us meet this challenge," the Premier said.

Disorders of the brain and mind now account for more than 40 per cent of all health-related disability. Together they cost the Australian economy an estimated $30 billion each year.

"The Brain and Mind Centre represents a completely new way of conducting research. The breadth and depth of multidisciplinary research to be conducted by the centre will be unparalleled both in Australia and internationally," said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney.

The Brain and Mind Centre will bring together all of the University's various disciplines in health and medical research, science, psychology, engineering, and information technology, but also its expertise in ethics, law, philosophy, economics, education, workplace structure and social organisation.

The initial five-year work of the Centre will focus on three key themes: building and maintaining a healthy brain and mind across the life cycle; being in control of one's own actions; and maximising the social and economic participation of those living with disorders of the brain and mind.

Current research involving the Brain and Mind Centre includes:

  • a collaboration with The Sydney Neuroimaging Analysis Centre, MS Research Australia Brain Bank and local health district that encourages people with MS to pledge their brain tissue so it can later be used for individual research projects. The technology provides sophisticated analyses of data from MRI brain scans and measures brain volume loss with great sensitivity and accuracy, allowing researchers and specialists to study the brain in closer detail than ever before
  • shared leadership of a review of how technology can be integrated into local NSW communities to treat youth mental health. The project is with young people in three locations (Western Sydney, Central Coast and Broken Hill) and will consider how to integrate e-mental health with face-to-face services.

This Centre's work is underpinned by expertise in the four key domains of neuroscience, clinical medicine, population health and public policy. It brings together researchers, clinicians, practitioners, students and patients and their families across an extensive network of shared facilities and health precincts.

The University also announced the creation of two new Research Chairs in mental health, both supported by the University, private philanthropy and the NSW Government. The first is the Michael Crouch Chair in Child Mental Health, focusing on changes in brain development that underpin childhood risks to the major mental disorders.

The second is the Chair in Youth Depression, focusing on the period of teenage and early adult life when the onset and persistence of major mood disorders gives rise to the greatest risk of ongoing disability and suicidal behaviour in young Australians.

The role of the appointees will be to engage and promote research, clinical and policy initiatives in the relevant fields of children and youth that complement the activities of NSW Health.

Co-director for Health and Policy, Professor Ian Hickie said: "These new chairs will give us the opportunity to transform the landscape of treatment and management of mood disorders in young people in Australia."

Co-director for Discovery and Translation, Professor Matthew Kiernan said "With a truly interdisciplinary approach, the Brain and Mind Centre will transform our ground-breaking research into innovative treatments for conditions that will impact most Australians at some time in their life."

The new Brain and Mind Centre will be working with partners across New South Wales, including urban and regional health districts, as well as community-based organisations that deliver key health and welfare services.

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