Faculty success with research grants

16 November 2013

The quality and importance of the Faculty of Health Sciences' research has seen many of our academics recognised this year with a series of significant grants from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Congratulations to the following researchers who were successful in the recently announced ARC funding round: Doctor Joanne Arciuli, Doctor Natalie Vanicek, Professor Steven Meikle, Doctor Andre Kyme, Associate Professor Ann Packman, Professor Anita Bundy, Doctor Kieron Rooney and Doctor Roger Bourne.

Professor Kathryn Refshauge, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, commented "this is an excellent achievement for the Faculty, as we have had really great success with ARC grants for 2014. It's also good to see so many of our researchers working in collaboration with other disciplines and institutions in ARC and NHMRC funding."

Highlights of ARC-funded projects include:

Doctor Natalie Vanicek received a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award to undertake a project to advance amputee care by transforming national standards and improving falls prevention in lower limb amputees. The number of people with an amputation will double within 40 years. This presents a burden on health services as the majority of amputees are older and fall more frequently than able-bodied individuals. In Australia, there are minimal clinical guidelines related to amputee care and none related to falls prevention specifically.

Doctor Joanne Arciuli was awarded a Future Fellowship worth $611K to investigate the problem of a lack of knowledge around developmental influences impacting the ability to produce lexical stress, and how these developmental influences relate to language-specific versus physiological motor-control factors. Lexical stress reflects the contrast in sounds between strong and weak syllables within single words. The inability to achieve this contrastivity shows a protracted developmental trajectory in healthy children and is atypical in some children with autism. This project's outcomes will trigger the next generation of speech production models with potential for impact in areas like speech pathology.

Professor Steven Meikle and his team including Doctor Andre Kyme were awarded $431K in ARC Discovery Project funding to investigate Post Emission Tomograph (PET) designs capable of continuously imaging the brain of a conscious, moving animal; develop a PET detector with sub-millimetre spatial resolution and depth-of-interaction capability; and, develop a fully integrated motion tracking system. This research will lead to next generation PET technologies for contemporaneous brain imaging and behavioural analysis in freely moving mice.

Associate Professor Ann Packman and her team were awarded a $140K ARC Discovery Project grant. She is working in collaboration with experts in stuttering in Australia and Hong Kong to uncover the linguistic triggers of stuttering in Cantonese. Despite decades of study, the cause of stuttering is still not well understood. Research in English has suggested that changes in emphasis from syllable to syllable can trigger individual moments of stuttering. However, Cantonese is very different from English, being a tonal and syllabic language. This project will yield new insight into the complex causality of this disabling condition.

Professor Anita Bundy and her team received $510K in ARC Discovery Project funding to undertake a project which aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of simple, cost-effective programs for changing the way parents and teachers view manageable risk-taking for children with disabilities and increasing the level of responsibility that children take for their own actions. The well-being of all children with disabilities is at risk and the gap continues to widen. New programs, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, will place increasing demands on young people with disabilities. Such programming must begin early, by including children in an age-appropriate ways and simultaneously addressing the issues of adults who have the most significant influence: parents and teachers.

Doctor Kieron Rooney is partnering on an ARC Discovery Project grant of $480K to examine how what is learned about a flavour influences both short-term and long-term food consumption by rats and humans. Between-meal snacks and sweet drinks are major contributors to human obesity. Consumption of a food is greatly influenced by its flavour and the properties of flavours are largely learned. The results of this project will extend basic understanding of flavour learning in relation to obesity.

Professor Steven Meikle and Doctor Roger Bourne are part of a collaboration team awarded a $1.06M ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant to develop ultra-high resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system for physical applications. Ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging provides unique high contrast images at previously inaccessible levels of resolution (<0.1mm). It non-invasively provides unprecedented information on chemical and biochemical processes including functional biological mechanisms. This infrastructure will take Australia to the forefront of magnetic resonance imaging capability. Outcomes will range from agricultural advances, higher performing batteries, and more effective cancer treatments.

Collaborating partners include Ingham Health Research Institute, Liverpool Hospital, Surgical Diagnostics Pty Ltd, the University of New England, the University of New South Wales, the University of South Australia, the University of Western Australia and the University of Western Sydney.

Congratulations also to Faculty of Health Sciences researchers involved in projects awarded funding by the NHMRC earlier this year:

Professor Lindy Clemson and the team including Associate Professor Karen Willis, Associate Professor Lynette Mackenzie, Doctor Mary Lam and Doctor Meryl Lovarini were awarded an NHMRC Partnership Project for Better Health grant worth $1.26M titled "Integrated SOLutions for sustainable fall preVEntion (iSOLVE )".

The following researchers were part of a collaborative team awarded an NHMRC Project grant:
Professor Lindy Clemson - Preventing Falls in Older People with Dementia
Doctor Emma Power and Professor Leanne Togher - Preventing depression and reducing the impact of aphasia in stroke patients and their caregivers
Doctor Annie McCluskey - Affordable technology to improve physical activity levels and mobility outcomes in rehabilitation
Professor Sharon Kilbreath - Studies on the effects of endogenous and exogenous opioids in modulating exercise-induced dyspnoea in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Doctor Kieron Rooney - Exercise for the management of cannabis withdrawal in adults
Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh - Assessment of behaviour intervention to improve physical activity in patients with peripheral artery disease.