Brain injury and rehabilitation

Brain injury and rehabilitation

Almost half a million Australians have an acquired brain injury. The Monash Epworth Rehabilitation Research Centre (MERRC) investigates functional and psychosocial outcomes, from the perspectives of neuroimaging to everyday function, factors impacting on outcomes, and develops and evaluates interventions for problems experienced by individuals with brain injury, with the ultimate aim of maximising their independence and quality of life. MERRC, founded and directed by Professor Jennie Ponsford, is a self-funding, world-leading centre of excellence in brain injury and rehabilitation. It is built on a strong partnership with Epworth Healthcare, and numerous other national and international collaborations.

Recently the Centre has expanded to study cognitive, psychological and functional recovery following stroke and interventions for cognitive impairments after stroke, led by Dr Rene Stolwyk, with an expanded network of collaborators in Monash Health, including the Monash Stroke and Ageing Research Centre. Studies also address issues faced by children with brain injury.

This program hosts five academic staff from MICCN – Jennie Ponsford, Adam McKay, Rene Stolwyk , Catherine Willmott and Dana Wong, all scientist practitioners who are key to the delivery of its interventions. It also has research fellows Gershon Spitz, Kate Gould and Marina Downing.  It has active collaborations in MICCN with Matt Mundy, Shantha Rajaratnam , Nikolaos Kazantzis, Melita Giummarra, Nellie Georgiou-Karistianis and Mark Bellgrove.

MERRC's research studies cover almost every aspect of recovery and rehabilitation in humans following traumatic brain injury from the point of emergence from coma until more than 20 years post-injury. Our research is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australian Research Council (ARC), Victorian Neurotrauma Initiative, Transport Accident Commission (TAC), Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR),  Jack Brockhoff  and William Buckland Foundations, Brain Foundation, RACV, Epworth Research Institute, and Monash University. Professor Jennie Ponsford, is a Chief Investigator on the NHMRC Centre of Excellence in Traumatic Brain Injury Psychosocial Rehabilitation incorporating a collaboration of world-leading researchers. Jennie Ponsford has also been a team leader in the NTRI Centre of Excellence in Traumatic Brain Injury Research (CETBIR) at the National Trauma Research Unit (NTRI). She is on the Steering Committee of the Victorian State trauma Registry and is a CI on an NHMRC grant and an ARC linkage grant conducting long-term follow-up of trauma victims.

MERRC has a unique capacity to deliver translation and strong collaboration with industry, in particular with the TAC and ISCRR , who have provided continuous funding since 1995 for its Longitudinal Head Injury Outcome Study. MERRC is having active input into TAC policy and practice. The study findings underpin world-first intervention studies for attention, fatigue, sleep disturbance, anxiety and depression, substance use and behaviours of concern for individuals with brain injury. A world-first study is evaluating the efficacy of early therapy for patients in post-traumatic amnesia. A 2015 review of ISCRR's Neurotrauma Research identified these two MERRC projects as amongst nine projects expected to have major Global Impacts over the next 3 years. A collaboration with NTRI  led to the development and publication of international guidelines for cognitive rehabilitation in TBI published in 2014.