The Cognitive Health Initiative is focused on vascular determinants of brain health and improving diagnostic pathways for people with cognitive disorders. We seek to find factors that increase risk of cognitive impairment, but also, and more importantly, to find factors that protect our brains - the keys to healthy brain ageing. We aim to improve the diagnostic pathway for people with cognitive disorders by identifying better testing methods in clinic, including the use of advanced imaging markers, blood tests for brain proteins, and tests of function to allow early diagnosis, and streamline access to supportive therapies, future treatments, and improved care.
2023 Brodtmann Group. L-R: Linden Carroll, Laura White, Elizabeth McInerney, Kim Adkins, Dr Mohamed Khlif, Alex Billett, Dr Amy Brodtmann, Steph Tucker, Dr Carolina Restrepo Verasquez. (Not pictured: Ruwayda Haibe, Dr Antonia Clarke, Dr Maja Christensen)
Get in touch
Whether you want to be involved in our research, to study with us, or to donate to our work, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Email us – firstname.lastname@example.org
We are currently recruiting participants for a Post stroke exercise study
Postdoctoral Research Fellows
Dr Mohamed Khlif
Clinical Trials Coordinator
Kim Adkins (Lead)
PhD Students (2023)
Dr Antonia Clarke
Dr Maja Christensen
Research Administration Officer
Dr Carolina Restrepo Velasquez
The Cognitive Health Initiative studies network degeneration following brain injury (e.g. ischaemic stroke), with particular interest in vascular contributions to and diagnostic pathways for cognitive impairment, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
Dementia is a major health challenge, affecting over 46 million people worldwide (about 460,000 within Australia), and expected to increase to 131.5 million by 2050. Certain populations, including those with history of stroke or otherwise compromised vascular health, are at an alarmingly higher risk of developing dementia. The individual risk factors contributing most to the dementia burden are physical inactivity, stroke, and mid-life hypertension. There is also a growing body of evidence linking diet and gut microbiome dysfunction with the onset and progression of dementia, and poor sleep quality is also associated with increased risk of dementia, cognitive decline, and increased cortical atrophy. There is currently no effective pharmacological treatments to prevent or alter the progress of cognitive decline - however, there is converging evidence from human and animal studies that lifestyle approaches, including cardiorespiratory exercise hold tremendous promise for dementia prevention.
Our research seeks to investigate neuroimaging correlates of cognitive decline, the effects of post-stroke exercise interventions of brain volume and cognitive function, and the accuracy and accessibility of imaging modalities in the diagnosis of dementia. Ultimately, we want to increase our understanding of dementia and stroke, two of the major causes of death, disability, and reduced quality of life in our society, and illuminate potential causal factors leading from stroke and ischaemic brain injury to neurodegeneration including dementia risk.
Want to learn more about dementia? Prof Amy Brodtmann serves on the Board of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation (since 2018), as well as being an invited Honorary Medical Advisor for Dementia Australia - the first woman to be invited into this role. We can highly recommend a visit to the Dementia Australia website as it is a great resource for more information.
In addition to the projects below, we collaborate extensively with dementia and stroke researchers, clinicians, and neuroscientists, both within Australia and internationally.
Post Ischaemic Stroke Cardiovascular Exercise Study - Zoom Delivered Intervention Against Cognitive Decline (PISCES-ZODIAC)
This intervention study aims to examine the feasibility of an eight-week home-based exercise program delivered via telehealth to stroke survivors at high risk of dementia, to explore the effects of cardiorespiratory exercise intervention on brain volume and cognition at four and twelve months after stroke, and to explore the links between brain volume, levels of inflammatory biomarkers, general fitness, daily physical activity, blood pressure, sleep, diet, and gut microbiome.
The study examines whether a cardiac-rehabilitation style exercise intervention will preserve brain volume and cognition. The identification of an efficacious exercise intervention would represent a major public health advance, readily translatable and accessible to all Australians, and directly implementable into clinical practice.
We are currently seeking participants for this research study. See more - Post stroke exercise study.
Better biomarkers for dementia diagnosis: NfL and Voice Acoustic analysis In Dementia Diagnosis (NAVAIDD)
This study seeks to determine the efficacy of bloods and voice testing in aiding dementia diagnosis. We are investigating if the level of Neurofilament light chain (NfL) in the blood can help to diagnose dementia, as elevated levels of NfL have been seen in neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's and other dementias. The study is unique in its high inclusivity criteria, including people presenting with any cognitive complaint irrespective of suspicion of dementia diagnosis, as well as individuals from different ethnicities and those from non-English speaking backgrounds. In previous studies, these minorities have not been represented in studies which support diagnostic efficacy of NfL tests.
We are currently seeking participants for this research study through Eastern Health referrals.
Cognition and Neocortical Volume After Stroke (CANVAS) Study
This landmark study is now complete, but analyses continue. Stroke survivors and healthy controls had MRI scans and cognitive assessment within a few weeks of stroke events, and again at 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years. By comparing their results with healthy, age-matched controls (with no history of stroke or dementia) we have found that brain volume change is greater in people after stroke, especially those with cognitive impairment. We continue to elucidate potential causal mechanisms including genetic markers, amyloid deposition, and cardiovascular risk factors, including via collaborations with the International Stroke Genetics Consortium (hosted in Melbourne in March 2023), and the Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Stroke Recovery Group. These data are being shared with many international researchers to better understand the determinants of post-stroke cognitive impairment, and are available for Masters and PhD projects.
Recruitment for this study has concluded.
Diabetes and Dementia Study (D2): Alzheimer type protein deposition in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus
This is a sub-study of the D2 study which aims to establish whether people with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and left ventricular hypertrophy have a higher amyloid and/or tau burden in their brains compared to people with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus but without left ventricular hypertrophy. Additional outcome includes whether amyloid and tau levels are associated with brain volume and cognitive skills in these two groups. For this study, 30 individuals with Type 2 Diabetes who were part of the broader D2 study underwent amyloid and tau PET scans. Results from this study will provide unique information on the relationship between diabetes and dementia.
Recruitment for this study has concluded.
Prof Brodtmann has had continuous NHMRC and philanthropic research funding since PhD Scholarship (2001), including $18 million funding in CIA NHMRC grants alone. She has been involved in NHMRC research projects totalling >$35 million, including two Dementia Research Team grants (CIA and AI) and MRFF targeted grants as CI and AI, 2021 Synergy grant (CIC) and two 2021 CREs (CIB and CIC on each).
Prof Brodtmann has had more than 160 peer-reviewed and government-commissioned papers published in high-ranking journals (e.g. Lancet Neurology, Neurology, Brain, NeuroImage, Biological Psychiatry, Stroke), including contributing to clinical trials published in NEJM and The Lancet. Prof Brodtmann is also a much sought-after speaker, and annually presents at between eight to twelve speaking engagements (including invited lectures, symposia, plenaries, and keynotes for national and international meetings).
Prof Brodtmann's awards include:
- 2022 ANZAN - Mervyn Eadie Award - Peak award for a mid-career clinician researcher
- 2010-2011 University of Melbourne - Completed UoM Academic Women in Leadership Program
- 2006 AAN - Finalist for Australian Association of Neurologists Annual Scientific Meeting Young Investigator Awards
- 2005, 2003, 2002 OHBM - Travel Award
- 2001 RIKEN Neurosciences Institute Summer School Scholarship (Japan)
- 1999 Winner of the Australian Young Investigator Award for the XI International Congress of EMG and Clinical Neurophysiology
- 1999 FRACP - Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians
Dr Carolina Restrepo:
- 2012 AADRF - Alzheimer's Australia Dementia Research Foundation scholarship
- 2011 APA - Australia Postgraduate Award
- 2009 COLFUTURO - Scholarship-loan
Dr Antonia Clarke:
- 2023 AAS - Douglas and Lola Douglas Scholarship in Medical Sciences
- 2023 NHMRC - Post-graduate scholarship
- 2023 ANZAN - Neurology Post-graduate scholarship