Neurosurgery Chair Campaign launched in glittering style!

The evening of Tuesday 17 September saw the launch of CBR’s campaign to fund a Professorial Chair in Neurosurgery, to increase our linkages with Auckland District Health Board, and to foster reciprocal knowledge transfer between clinical discipline and academic research in this crucial area.  In recognition of their generous seeding gift of $2 million toward the campaign, the Chair will be named “The Freemasons Chair of Neurosurgery at the University of Auckland”

To read more about the campaign, and what its supporters have to say about it, click on the following link: http://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/faculty/newsandevents/new_news_details.aspx?Id=1106

Professor Richard Faull with campaign drivers Dame Jenny Gibbs (L) and Dame Rosie Horton (R)

Professor Richard Faull with campaign drivers Dame Jenny Gibbs (L) and Dame Rosie Horton (R)

Former 'Fair Go' presenter Kevin Milne was the MC for the launch function.

Former ‘Fair Go’ presenter Kevin Milne was the MC for the launch function.

Vicki Lee and Tim Edmonds of Cure Kids NZ, with All Blacks Steven Luatua (L) and Charles Piutau (R)

Vicki Lee and Tim Edmonds of Cure Kids NZ, with All Blacks Steven Luatua (L) and Charles Piutau (R)

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CBR Hosts Launch of ‘Minds for Minds’ Campaign

The Centre for Brain Research was the setting last week for the launch of the ‘Minds for Minds’ campaign, an initiative of the Autism Research Network New Zealand (ARNNZ), to raise awareness and funding for research into the genetic causes of Autism.  They are also seeking people on the autism spectrum to join a research register, which will be used to collect genetic and autobiographical information.

Over a hundred people packed our seminar room space to hear a series of the lead researchers from the network give a precis of their research, and how it contributes to the ‘overall picture’, before the unveiling of the campaign phrase ‘Minds for Minds’, together with its appealing brain logo.  To read columnist Deborah Hill Cone’s view of the campaign and its significance, click here:

ARNNZ lead researcher Professor Russell Snell with journalist Deborah Hill Cone.

ARNNZ lead researcher Professor Russell Snell with journalist Deborah Hill Cone.

Several of the founding members of ARNNZ are also CBR members, and it looks as though they mean to apply the same principles of working alongside clinical experts and members of the community to ensure the best results for those living with autism, and their families.  Go to www.arnnz.org to find out how you can be part of the picture.

ARNNZ members flank the 'Minds for Minds' logo. L-R: Associate Professor Karen Waldie (CBR), Dr Johanna Montgomery (CBR), Professor Ian Kirk (CBR), Dr Mike Taylor, Professor Russell Snell (CBR), Dr Jessie Jacobsen (CBR), and Dr Rosamund Hill

ARNNZ members flank the ‘Minds for Minds’ logo. L-R: Associate Professor Karen Waldie (CBR), Dr Johanna Montgomery (CBR), Professor Ian Kirk (CBR), Dr Mike Taylor, Professor Russell Snell (CBR), Dr Jessie Jacobsen (CBR), and Dr Rosamund Hill

CBR supports fundraiser for music therapy

Scientists from the Centre for Brain Research met Kiwi band Titanium this weekend, along with singers Anika Moa and Boh Runga.

Associate Professor Lynette Tippett, Dr Hinemoa Elder, Dr Clare McCann, Professor Suzanne Purdy, Professor Richard Faull and Alison Talmage meet the band Titanium

Associate Professor Lynette Tippett, Dr Hinemoa Elder, Dr Clare McCann, Professor Suzanne Purdy, Professor Richard Faull and Alison Talmage meet the band Titanium

The members of the SPICCATO research team were entertained by top kiwi stars, as part of a gala dinner fundraiser to help raise funds for the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre (RMTC).

The SPICCATO project (funded by the Health Research Council) is investigating the benefits of CeleBRation Choir participation. The community singing group provides choral singing therapy for people with communication difficulties through brain diseases, like stroke and Parkinson’s disease. The team includes music therapist Alison Talmage, who has a joint role at the RMTC and also leads the CeleBRation Choir.

Professor Suzanne Purdy, Laura Fogg and Alison Talmage meet RMTC founders Hinewehi Moha and husband George Bradfield.

Professor Suzanne Purdy, Laura Fogg and Alison Talmage meet RMTC founders Hinewehi Mohi and husband George Bradfield.

The RMTC was established in 2004 by singer Hinewehi Mohi, whose daughter Hineraukatauri has cerebral palsy. After experiencing the benefits of music in the UK, Hinewehi turned to the New Zealand music industry to support her goal of establishing music therapy in New Zealand, helping children with developmental and learning difficulties.

The RMTC now supports hundreds of children each year, and is also starting to work with adults in conjunction with Music Therapy New Zealand. The CeleBRation Choir researchers are also keen to develop the benefits of music therapy for people with brain disease.

Overall the star-filled evening raised approximately $185,000 for the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre.

Two neurological charities make the New Zealand top 25 to win a new car

Congratulations to the CBR’s Community Partners, MS Auckland and North Shore along with Huntington’s Auckland, who have each won a car from Toyota!

The charities receive a Toyota Corolla for 3 years, as part of Toyota’s ’25 Ways to Say Thanks’ campaign.

The winners were announced this week after a total of 515 charities registered to be in the running for one of 25 cars to use for three years. Nearly 40,000 people voted for their favourite charity through Facebook over the past four weeks.

The campaign for HD Auckland was spearheaded by PhD student Malvindar Singh, who used the power of social media to snare the much-needed car.

The manager of HD Auckland Jo Dysart says “This car is so important to us as it means our family liaison officers can get out to visit families with HD and provide help and support. We want to thank all those who voted for us – it was an amazing effort and the benefits will be felt by many families and clients for years to come.”

Tuning out tinnitus

An innovative multi‐modal treatment programme for tinnitus will be trialled by researchers from the Centre for Brain Research at The University of Auckland, in a study made possible by a donation from Link Research and Grants.

The treatment programme will use neuromodulators to “prime” people’s brains to be more responsive to training that may reduce their perception of tinnitus – a sensation of noise in the ears that has no external cause.

“We’re trying to provide the means for the auditory system to ignore tinnitus,” explains lead researcher Dr Grant Searchfield, Head of Audiology. “When people experience tinnitus they become attuned to hearing it in preference to other auditory stimuli – it’s a magnet for attention. To break the cycle they need to be trained to attend to other things.”

The trial will use people’s sense of vision and touch to achieve this. “In the past it was assumed that tinnitus was primarily an auditory phenomenon, but it has become clear that tinnitus is caused by a much more distributed network within the brain that can be influenced by a number of senses,” says Dr Searchfield.

“We know that the senses can work for or against each other. For instance if a tactile (touch) stimulus is paired with an auditory stimulus it can make the perceived sound stronger, whereas if they don’t match up then the perceived sound is weaker. Visual stimuli can also trick us into hearing sounds that aren’t there.”

Participants will use computer‐based training developed at the university that uses visual and touch feedback to train the brain to ignore tinnitus. A sound‐only version of the training has already been shown to produce significant improvements in tinnitus within one month, a much shorter period than the 12 to 18 months required for standard treatments.

To further boost the effect, neuromodulatory drugs will be used to make people’s brains more responsive to training. “It’s analogous to using performance enhancing drugs in athletics,” explains Dr Searchfield. “Doing the training can reduce tinnitus but if you use these medications then the training may be more effective or you could get to the end result faster.”

“This research is very important not only for understanding tinnitus but understanding the brain itself,” says Matteo de Nora on behalf of Link Research and Grants.

The study builds on previous work at the Centre for Brain Research on how to prime the brain to be more responsive to rehabilitation for stroke or lazy eye. It is a multidisciplinary project involving experts in audiology, medicine, behavioural medicine, pharmacology, vision science, and sport and exercise science.

“This is a very exciting development for the Centre for Brain Research which exemplifies the whole ethos of the Centre to promote and enhance multidisciplinary research from the lab to the clinic,” says the Centre’s Director Professor Richard Faull.

Link Research and Grants has a long‐term interest in supporting tinnitus research worldwide and is a strong advocate for New Zealand research. Its gift will cover the cost of the project, including several research positions as well as equipment and related expenses.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous philanthropy that supports our world‐class researchers. I am confident that the tinnitus research project will eventually improve the lives of those who currently suffer this annoying hearing problem,” says Professor John Fraser, Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at The University of Auckland.

Around 20 per cent of people experience tinnitus that annoys them and one to two per cent have clinically significant tinnitus. To learn more about tinnitus or find out whether you may be eligible to take part in the study, email tinnitus@auckland.ac.nz

Dream money for neuroscience research

Generous donors have kick-started two exciting new neuroscience projects in the Centre for Brain Research.

The first donation will enable our NeuroDiscovery Unit (formerly called the Integrative Neuroscience Facilities) to appoint a new Technical Manager in 2013. The generous support of $100,000 comes from Dame Jenny Gibbs, a CBR Ambassador and long-time friend of the University of Auckland. Funding has also been boosted by a donation of $50,000 from an anonymous donor via our website.

CBR Director Professor Richard Faull says, “I call this dream money, as it gets these imaginative blue sky projects off the ground. We are just so grateful for this generous support to help fight neurological disease.”

The NeuroDiscovery Unit is led by Associate Professors Bronwen Connor and Nigel Birch and undertakes pre-clinical neuroscience research. The technical manager will organise and run the unit to enable collaboration across the CBR.

A grant of $50,000 from the Freemasons of New Zealand has also supported an imaginative new initiative for Alzheimer’s research led by Professor Russell Snell. This will bring a group of international experts together to plan a worldwide collaborative research programme for the development of a transgenic sheep model for Alzheimer’s disease. This research will be driven from the CBR and involve leading geneticists and Alzheimer’s researchers from the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Freemasons fund new drug discovery programme

A world-leading drug discovery programme is being developed at the Centre for Brain Research, thanks to a donation from the Freemasons of New Zealand.

 The generous gift of $248,000 will enable the development of new drugs for neurodegenerative disorders. The funding brings together an expert scientific team, including medicinal chemists led by Professor Margaret Brimble from the School of Chemical Sciences and neuropharmacologists working in the CBR Biobank.

 New drug compounds will be developed by synthetic chemist DrAmanda Heapy, who has been awarded the Freemasons fellowship for this work. The team has a unique library of 2000 bioactive natural products. These novel compounds will be tested directly on human tissues in the Biobank, to speed up the drug development process.

 Dr Heapy says: “Collaboration is key. With medicinal chemistry we need constant feedback from biologists about what direction to go and we hope to provide a more tailored service to the pharmacologists which will fast track the search for novel compounds. The Centre for Brain Research has the Biobank, facilities and all the procedures set up for us to do this, whilst the chemists have the compound library. Thus, working closely is a huge competitive advantage — having discussions in person and bouncing ideas off one another.

 David Mace is the Chairman of the Freemasons Roskill Foundation, and says: “The Freemasons are delighted to announce the funding of this fellowship to continue the valuable work by New Zealand researchers at the forefront of global investigation.”

A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed by Vice Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon and the Grand Master of the Freemasons on 25th November, to celebrate the ongoing collaboration and support between the Freemasons and University research.