Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration

Investigating neurodegenerative diseases with MR-PETMR-PET

The Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration Research Group is co-located between Monash Biomedical Imaging and the Department of Neuroscience at Monash University.

Our research uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) technology to investigate and track brain changes in people with neurodegenerative diseases. This work principally focusses on individuals with inherited subcortical diseases, including Friedreich ataxia, Spinocerebellar ataxias, and Huntington’s disease. Additional work in other neurodegenerative disorders and in preclinical animal models is also being undertaken with our collaborators.

The broad aims of our research include:

  • biological phenotyping, such as describing changes in brain structure and function
  • mechanistic inference, including cellular/molecular-level measurements of inflammation, oxidative stress, and metabolic dysfunction.

Our studies seek to provide more comprehensive disease descriptions and to identify measures relevant to track disease progression or treatment efficacy.

Opportunities for new PhD students

We are currently accepting new PhD students for the following programs and projects.

Mechanistic Neuroimaging

Our flagship research program uses hybrid MR-PET technology, investigational PET radiotracers, and blood markers to investigate pathological processes and sub-cellular measures of disease expression and progression. The techniques we employ are sensitive to neuroinflammation, oxidative stress/ferroptosis, iron homeostasis, vascular health, and systems-level brain structure and function.

Within this program, we are recruiting study participants with Friedreich ataxia and Spinocerebellar Ataxia Types 1, 2, 3, and 6.

ENIGMA-Ataxia

Our group founded and coordinates the ENIGMA-Ataxia international working group.

Inherited ataxias are rare diseases, leading to most published literature relying on small sample sizes with limited statistical power, reliability, and generalisability.

ENIGMA-Ataxia was founded to harmonise and aggregate the analysis of existing MRI data in these diseases from around the world to pool our collective resources and overcome many of these limitations.

The working group consists of 19 data sites and three methods groups from Australia, North and South America, and Western Europe. Analysis of brain morphometry, white matter integrity, and spinal cord structure are currently underway.

Cerebellar Function and Connectivity

The human cerebellum is known to contribute to a broad range of motor, cognitive, and affective behaviours. However, the role of the cerebellum in non-motor functions is not yet well understood.

Using functional MRI data and cognitive testing, our group investigates the function and large-scale connectivity of the cerebellum in healthy populations and individuals with cerebellar diseases.

STAREE Neuroimaging Substudy

The ‘STAtins in Reducing Events in the Elderly (STAREE)’ clinical trial is a large-scale study of the health impacts of statins in 10,000+ heathy individuals over the age of 70 years.

Our team is leading the STAREE Neuroimaging sub-study of 200 of these individuals, using a suite of MRI measures of brain morphometry, white matter integrity and vascular health.

Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration Research Group

Dr Ian Harding – Group Leader

Dr Will Khan – Post-Doctoral Fellow

Mr Tom Biczok – Research Assistant

Ms Hiba Bilal – PhD Student