How MICCN is Pausing for Parkinson’s

During April 2018, MICCN Paused for Parkinson’s. The annual event seeks to raise more awareness and vital funds for research into better treatments and ultimately a cure for this debilitating disease.

More than 110,000 people may be living with Parkinson's in Australia*. For the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences (MICCN), this number is not acceptable. We are one of the many organisations striving to find better treatments, and ultimately a cure, by investigating the cognitive processes underlying the debilitating disease.

In 2016, Dr Trevor Chong was awarded a Brain Foundation “Research Gift Award” to investigate fatigue and its impact on decision-making in Parkinson's disease.

We asked Trevor how his work is progressing, and how he is helping to turn around the lives of so many for the better.

When did you commence your research into Parkinson’s disease?

I started my research into Parkinson’s disease while working as an NHMRC Early Career Fellow in Oxford in 2013.

What made you choose to research Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative conditions, and historically much of the focus has been on the problems that it causes with movement. However, we now know that patients with Parkinson’s disease also experience a host of cognitive issues. As a neurologist, patients often tell me how much these problems affect their day-to-day lives, yet we have a much poorer understanding of these cognitive issues.

What are you trying to achieve through your research – how do you hope your research will make a difference?

The research in my group aims to better understand the neurobiological processes that give rise to the cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease, with the goal of developing better approaches to treating them.

What is involved in your research, i.e. what specific studies are you undertaking?

Recently, we have focused on problems with decision-making and motivation faced by patients with Parkinson’s disease. In particular, apathy is a very common clinical syndrome in Parkinson’s disease, and can have a significant impact on quality of life. We are currently using a combination of behavioural, neuroimaging, computational and pharmacological techniques to understand precisely what causes Parkinsonian apathy, and how it might be better managed.

How could more funding help?

We have been very fortunate to have had patients and their carers selflessly donate their time to participate in our research. However, without funding, our research would grind to a halt. More funding would allow us to continue our work using state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques, and to recruit more talented researchers to work on the exciting projects that are currently underway.

Do you have a message for those who may be living with Parkinson’s, and/or for their families who are there with them on this journey?

Parkinson’s disease can be a challenging condition to live with, but we now have several approaches at our disposal to manage its symptoms. As researchers and clinicians, we are constantly working very hard to try to improve our understanding of the disease and its treatment. For all of those patients and their carers who have generously participated in our studies, we offer our sincere thanks, and hope that the insights that you have provided will be translatable to future patients with the disease.

We congratulate Dr Chong and all researchers of Parkinson’s disease for their commitment and dedication to improving treatment and, one day, hopefully finding that cure.

More information on World Parkinson’s Day can be found here.

For more information on his research, contact Dr Trevor Chong on t: 03 9902 4222, e: Trevor.Chong@monash.edu.

*https://www.parkinsons.org.au/statistics

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