Core Business Activities
The Centre was established in 2000, following the appointment of Professor Jennie Ponsford to the School of Psychological Sciences at Monash University, bringing together the resources and expertise of Monash University with that of Epworth Hospital, which runs rehabilitation programs for victims of trauma. The main aim of the Centre is to conduct research in trauma rehabilitation, with a view to reducing long-term disability. The Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is the largest financial supporter of the Centre, providing substantial funding for the longitudinal head injury outcome study and associated projects for over 20 years, via the Institute for Safety Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR). The NHMRC, Australian Research Council, Epworth Research Institute, Monash University, the Jack Brockhoff Foundation, William Buckland Foundation, and the Department of Human Services have also supported specific projects. The Research Centre has strong links with the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, School of Psychological Sciences at Monash University, where Professor Ponsford is Director of Clinical Programs, convening a doctoral training program in clinical neuropsychology. Numerous doctoral students conduct research within the Centre. The MERRC is directed by Professor Jennie Ponsford. She reports to the Head of the School of Psychological Sciences at Monash University and the Chief Executive of Epworth Hospital, as well as to the Director of the Epworth Research Institute (ERI).
Over 20 psychologists and researchers are associated with the centre and form a dynamic research team. Senior academic staff include Dr Rene Stolwyk, Dr Catherine Willmott, and Dr Adam McKay. Core MERRC staff include: Dr Kate Gould, Dr Marina Downing, Ms Meagan Carty, Ms Amelia Hicks, Dr Gershon Spitz, Ms Mary Ryan, Dr Lisa Johnston, and Ms Bronwyn Hall. Affiliated staff include: Dr Dana Wong, A/Prof Dean McKenzie, Prof John Olver, Dr Michael Ponsford, Dr Rose Acher, Dr Pamela Ross, and A/Prof Gavin Williams.
See our Staff page for more information including a list of all staff.
The research being conducted by the MERRC is recognised internationally, as is evident from the significant number of invited international conference presentations made by Professor Ponsford and her associates, and the caliber of the Centre’s numerous journal publications. The information booklets produced in the mild TBI outcomes studies have been requested by over 100 different clinical and research bodies worldwide and translated into several languages and used in a recent cluster randomised trial to improve Emergency Department management of mild TBI. This work is thus having a significant impact on the field. Outcome after moderate and severe traumatic brain injury has been examined in considerable breadth, in terms of psychosocial functioning, employment, cognition, coping, pain, psychiatric health, sexual functioning, and family relationships. The impact of genetic factors, age and other demographic factors on outcome is a focus of study, including cultural influences upon outcome. Developing effective management protocols have been a recent focus of the work of the Centre, including management of patients in post-traumatic amnesia, rehabilitation of cognitive and behavioural dysfunction, and development and evaluation of community-based models of rehabilitation. Our outcome data has highlighted the high frequency of anxiety, depression, fatigue, pain and alcohol use and identified some factors associated with these problems, including coping style, which in turn has sparked further inquiry into psychiatric outcome for survivors of TBI, and psychological factors which affect functional outcome. Based on these investigations treatments have been developed and are being evaluated in world-first controlled trials focusing on anxiety and depression, fatigue and sleep disturbance, attention, memory and executive function, challenging behaviour and delivery of therapy to patients in post-traumatic amnesia. These treatment trials have recently expanded to provide treatment for stroke patients in the domains of fatigue and sleep disturbance and memory problems, with Dr Rene Stolwyk, Dr Dana Wong and Dr Adam McKay leading this work. Telehealth interventions are also being evaluated. Dr Catherine Willmott has expanded the Centre's work on concussion in partnership with the AFL and NHMRC, evaluating the use of accelerometers to assess head impact in football and the use of soft headgear for protection of footballers.
See our Research Studies page for more information on individual projects.