Our research aims to understand the causes of neurodegenerative disorders and work towards new treatments for these conditions.
Neurodegenerative disorders are associated with cell death in the brain. Cell death could be a direct cause of neurodegenerative disorders or a consequence of other processes that damage brain cells.
Our researchers are:
We are also performing research relevant to other conditions with altered brain function, such as:
Neurodegenerative disorders are conditions that predominantly affect cells in the brain, called neurons.
Neurons are specialised cells that allow the brain to communicate with the rest of the body.
When neurons become damaged or die, there is a loss of brain activity leading to problems with movement or mental functioning.
The symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders vary depending on which brain regions are affected.
Some neurodegenerative disorders mainly cause problems with movement (ataxias), while others mainly cause problems with mental functioning (dementias).
Some of the most common neurodegenerative disorders are:
Most neurodegenerative disorders develop later in life and are progressive, meaning they lead to increasing disability over time.
Some neurodegenerative disorders are caused by inherited genetic changes. These disorders run in families: the faulty gene is transmitted from parents to their children. Examples of genetic neurodegenerative disorders include Huntington’s disease, and rare cases of motor neurone disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
The majority of neurodegenerative disorders are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. This makes it difficult to predict who will develop disease.
Specific genetic changes that increase the chance of disease have been identified for some conditions, but in most cases the genetic influences on neurodegenerative disorders are not well understood.
Environmental factors also contribute to neurodegenerative disorders. For example, there is evidence linking Parkinson’s disease with long-term exposure to pesticides, toxins and chemicals.
The greatest known risk factor for many neurodegenerative disorders is age. In Australia there are more than 400,000 people living with dementia and around 80,000 people with Parkinson’s disease. These figures are likely to rise as the population ages, making neurodegenerative disorders a growing healthcare concern.
There are currently no drugs to prevent or cure neurodegenerative disorders.
Medications to control symptoms can be very effective. Other approaches to manage symptoms and maintain daily activities include physiotherapy, speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychiatry. A multidisciplinary approach is typically applied to improve the quality of life for people with neurodegenerative disorders.
We are committed to research to find much-needed new treatments for neurodegenerative disorders.