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Celebrating research impact - BMC support schemes for 2022

BMC funding for early career research and multidisciplinary partnerships.
Congratulations to the winners of this year's Brain and Mind Centre support schemes. Find out what some of our researchers will be working on in 2022!

The Brain and Mind Centre support schemes for 2022 have been announced, with a total of $350,000 awarded to 11 recipients demonstraing exciting advances and potential for growth.

Three partnerships with industry, government and not-for-profit organisations received $50,000 in matched funds while 10 recipients were awarded $20,000 each in Research and Development grants to build their own research programs.

Announcing the awards, the Brain and Mind Centre's co-Directors Professor Ian Hickie and Professor Matthew Kiernan said the recipients were great examples of  the range and depth of multidisciplinary research across the basic sciences and clinical research.

"The BMC is committed to fostering research careers and multidisciplinary partnerships.  As researchers ourselves we know the value of enabling a pathway to self-funding. The Research and Development grants and partnership grants are designed to provide talented researchers with the capacity to build a program of research that raises their capacity to lay the groundwork for the next steps.

"The Impact and Excellence Awards are awarded to a highly impactful research paper published by an early career researcher. The eight winners are exceptional examples of the talent within the BMC research network.

"We're thrilled to have exceptional researchers on board, congratulations to all the winners."

Expand the sections below to discover what our researchers will be working on in 2022.

BMC support recipients for 2022

The Brain and Mind Centre's Partnership Grants are awarded to researchers whose innovative partnerships collaborate to solve social and health issues. 

The partnership scheme was developed in 2020 to provide up to $50,000 in funding to successful applicants who have secured some matched funding from a partner organisation. Congratulations to the three winners for 2021. We are excited to see these projects take shape and these partnerships flourish.

Professor Adam Guastella, partnering with Akin Technology to test AI capabilities to measure functioning, activity and participation over time for children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Dr Rob Heirene- partnering with Sportsbet to identify earlier risk triggers and earlier intervention methods to prevent people from experiencing problems with online giambling.

Dr Alyssa Milton - partnering with Uniting to embed wellbeing-foused interventions in after school settings for primary school aged children, addressing a gap in the 'middle years' cohort, where one in five school-aged children are vulnerable to experiencing delays.

The BMC Research Development Grant scheme provides a platform for early and mid-career researchers to develop an independent program of research, and enable a pathway to future growth in the brain and mind sciences. This year, the $20,000 grants were awarded to 10 high-performing researchers:

  • Dr Jonathon Danon - An innovative PET Tracer for high-contrast in vivo imaging of tauopathies. 
  • Dr Nicholas Everett  - How does the oxytocin system encode for social and non-social reward decision making?
  • Dr Danielle McCartney - Proof-of-concept trial investigating the neuroprotective effects of Creatine in sport: The ‘PROTECT’ trial.
  • Dr Katrina Prior - Anxiety, drinking, and your way of thinking: Pilot trial of a cognitive bias modification to interrupt the vicious cycle of co-occurring anxiety and hazardous alcohol use among young adults
  • Dr Michael Gotsbacher - Mass Spectrometry Imaging of neuroprotective metal-chelating agents and disease-relevant metals in Parkinsonian mouse brain
  • Dr Vivian Liao- Developing the GABA Portal - a comprehensive online database connecting clinicians and families to reliable information on GABAA receptor-associated epilepsies. 
  • Dr Robert Heirene - The psychological antecedents and co-occurrence of gaming and gambling disorders among young people in Australia
  • Dr Jemma Todd - Pain interpretation and avoidance
  • Dr Lisa Oyston - Modelling and Quantification of TDP-43 pathology In Vitro
  • Dr Kelsie Boulton - Where To From Here? Co-Developing Support Pathways and Information Resources for Families and Clinicians Across Neurodevelopmental Services

$250 shopping gift cards awarded to impactful research paper by an early career researcher.

Federica Conti,

"Could the eyes provide a window into the mechanisms of memory?" A PhD thesis to explore the relationship between oculomotor behaviour and memory-related processes. In a world-first, I put forward an integrative framework which bridges the fields of vision science and cognitive neuroscience to establish the role of visual imagery in past- and future-oriented thinking. . This work sits at the cutting-edge of human memory research and stands to transform how we approach the diagnosis and early detection of dementia by means of non-invasive techniques to screen for subtle early warning signs of underlying pathology."

Dr Caitlin Cowan, 10.1159/isbn.978-3-318-06856-6

Dr Cowen was first editor of “Microbes and the Mind: The Impact of the Microbiome on Mental Health”,  a monograph published in 2021 as part of the Karger series Modern Trends in Psychiatry. . It was published as an accessible resource for both gut-brain axis researchers and those who are new to the area, aiming to provide mental health clinicians and neuroscientists with a strong, evidence-based introduction to the various facets of this emerging area and how it will inform research and clinical practice into the future.

Dr Vivian Liao,

"Efficient expression of concatenated α1β2δ and α1β3δ GABAA receptors, their pharmacology and stoichiometry." Extrasynaptic δ-subunit-containing GABAA receptors play crucial roles in regulating specific CNS functions such as nociception, memory, and anxiety via tonic inhibitions. The GABRD gene encoding the GABAA receptor δ-subunit has been dismissed as a causative gene for epilepsy. However using the assays we are able to establish genotype-phenotype and functional correlations and conclude that variants in the δ-subunit constitute a new pathway to epilepsy.

Dr Danielle McCartney, 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.01.003

This article is a comprehensive systematic review of 80 studies investigating the acute effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC: the main intoxicating component of cannabis) on driving performance and driving-related cognitive skills. The resulting models have been used and cited by media, scientific community, politicians and lawyers. It featured in major legal case around workplace safety earlier this year (e.g., Toronto Transit Commission versus Amalgamated Workers Union). The Chief Forensic Toxicologist for the County of San Francisco also reached out to share his appreciation, stating that the research would greatly assist with their DUI casework. 

Dr Eli Muller,

"Brain State Kinematics and the trajectory of task performance improvement" shows how human brain activity during a learning task evolves along a low-dimensional manifold. The paper shows how non-linear analysis can demonstrate deficiencies in the brain dynamics of some subjects and elucidate those regions responsible. The techniques developed in this work highlight a novel and general approach that can be extended to other brain datasets - in particular those of disease – with direct clinical application.

Dr Brandon Munn, 

"The ascending arousal system shapes neural dynamics to mediate awareness of cognitive states." The unique methodology analysis inspired by statistical Physics approaches has been released on open-access, allowing neuroscientists to utilise the technique to quantify cognitive impairment. Finally, our study begins the initial steps to incorporating the role of the neuromodulatory ascending arousal system in cortical dynamics. 

Claire O'Callaghan,

"Locus coeruleus integrity and the effect of atomoxetine on response inhibition in Parkinson’s disease"  a novel approach using ultra-high field neuroimaging, this paper showed that integrity of the locus coeruleus nucleus (the brain’s main source of noradrenaline) can predict those individuals most likely to respond to the drug. Not only does this work open a new avenue for potential treatment, it moves us closer to “precision medicine” – where treatments can be tailored to individuals most likely to benefit from them. 

Dr Grant Richter,

"The Z-Drugs Zolpidem, Zaleplon, and Eszopiclone Have Varying Actions on Human GABAA Receptors Containing γ1, γ2, and γ3 Subunits". Benzodiazepines and Z-drugs are some of the most widely prescribed pharmacological agents used for numerous indications, including treating insomnia. This approach provides conclusive pharmacological data of the efficacy and potency of these modulators at γ1, γ2, and γ3 GABAA receptor subtypes, providing a more complete picture of how an important class of drugs may be mediating their effects within the brain.