Neuroscience

Neuroscience

Neuroscience encompasses a broad range of disciplines applied to understanding the normal functions of the nervous system, what neural changes occur as a result of injury or the onset of neurological disorders, and the development of effective treatments to restore neural function or prevent degeneration.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are a group of disorders that cause progressive degeneration of neurons in the brain. They are incurable, generally strike in mid-to-late life, and cause debilitating effects such as memory deficits, poor control of movement and problems with attention and thinking.  The statistics are alarming – more than 44 million people are afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease worldwide, and this is forecast to reach 100 million by 2050.

A lack of effective treatment options is driving research into new therapies that can slow or arrest disease progression.  New treatments are also desperately needed for other neurological conditions derived from traumatic brain injury and stroke.

In addition to the search for pharmacological agents, there have been important developments in restoration of neural function through brain computer interfaces (BCIs) pathways. This is a rapidly emerging field that combines the latest technology and implantable devices to develop robotic prosthetics, mobility controls and communications capabilities.

Who we are

Monash has a strong national profile in Neuroscience, having achieved the maximum ranking (ERA 5, well above the world average) in both ERA assessments. Our BDI Neuroscience Program has a strong network of Monash partners including the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience (MICCN) and the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI).

The Monash BDI Neuroscience Program, led by Professor Marcello Rosa, comprises 17 primary group leaders and their research teams. Together, they bring expertise from across the spectrum of Neuroscience research from cellular and systems neuroscience, through to identifying and testing new treatment options. A further 16 group leaders from other BDI programs are linked to the Neuroscience Program as Associates.

In addition, we are highly involved in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Integrative Brain Function (CIBF) and the Monash Vision Group, which is developing a Bionic Eye based on direct brain stimulation.

Our goals

Fundamental questions being explored by our researchers that are essential to developing new approaches to treating neural dysfunction through pharmacological or Brain Computer Interface (BCI) pathways include:

  • How do neural biosignals and networks relate to behaviour and function and can we improve BCI pathways to restore neural function?
  • What are the mechanisms that lead to the development and progression of neurodegenerative diseases, and how can this knowledge be translated into better diagnostics and treatments?
  • What are the underlying mechanisms of brain malfunction following trauma and what can be done to improve recovery?
  • How are changes in the nervous system related to other diseases, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes (T2D)?
  • How do events in the gestational and neo-natal period impact on nervous system function of throughout life?

Research themes

Our researchers are uncovering the mechanisms of how the nervous system allows us to interact with the surrounding environment, as well as how the brain communicates with and controls the tissues and organs of the body.  Our current major research themes are:

Understanding the brain 

We have world class expertise in mapping neural networks to understand sensory perception, particularly in the fields of vision, tactile perception and hearing. This knowledge is essential for developing Brain Computer Interface (BCI) devices to treat neural dysfunction.

Nervous system injury 

We work to identify the role of molecular targets in traumatic brain injury and stroke to develop new pharmacologic treatment options and prevent secondary damage.

Neurodegenerative diseases

We are exploring the pathogenesis and progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.  Identifying signalling pathways and molecular changes is key to developing new treatments to halt or slow down neurodegeneration.

Neural mechanisms in diseases and disorders

We collaborate with researchers across programs to understand the neural mechanisms in obesity, T2D and cardiovascular diseases, for example, understanding the neural mechanisms of appetite control in obesity or insulin resistance in T2D.

Other areas of research expertise include the elucidation of neural pathways controlling reproduction in both humans and animals. Venom research is leading to the identification of novel pharmacological agents while stem cell therapies combined with new biomaterials are being explored for treating stroke.