Centre for Brain Research

Researcher

Associate Professor Henry Waldvogel

Current Research

Assoc. Prof. Henry Waldvogel has helped develop the Neurological Foundation Douglas Human Brain Bank in the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. This is where brains with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s,  Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Motor Neuron diseases as well as other brain disorders are specially treated and stored for use in scientific studies into these brain diseases. His specialty is immunohistochemical staining of sections of brain tissue and spinal cord to detect molecules in the brain which are important for identifying different brain cells and markers of neurodegenerative diseases.

Relationship to MND

This brain bank has tissue stored from patients who have died of MND and donated their brains to science.

Future Research

Assoc. Prof. Henry Waldvogel and his team will be working with Dr. Emma Scotter and her group studying the pathological changes in the MND cases that he has stored in the Brain Bank.

Collaborations

Dr. Emma Scotter and her team of researchers and students

Resource Gaps

Having a detailed clinical history for the cases of MND that they receive at the brain bank is very important and currently not available.

The Team

Assoc. Prof. Henry Waldvogel is part of a larger team including; Director – Distinguished Professor Sir Richard Faull, Associate Director – Associate Professor Maurice Curtis, Brain Bank Manager, Marika Eszes and a group of Post doctoral fellows, postgraduate students including doctoral students, Masters and BSc Biomedical honours students who are working on a number of projects on the diseases outlined above.

Contact

Associate Professor Henry Waldvogel Centre for Brain Research and Department of Anatomy and Medical Imaging Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences University of Auckland 85 Park Road Grafton 1023 Private Bag 92019 Auckland New Zealand phone 0064 9 3737599 ext 86051 direct 0064 9 9236051

Thoughtwired

Researchers

Thought-Wired, are a team of 5 consisting of:

Dr James Pau – Biomedical Engineer, Co-founder

Stuart McGill – Cognitive Neuroscientist

Sarvnaz Taherian – Research Psychologist, Co-founder

Sean Carmichael – Software Developer

Dmitry Selitskiy – CEO, Co-founder

They are based at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, Auckland, New Zealand

Current Research

The team are currently researching and developing a brain-computer interface for people with severe physical disabilities, such as Motor Neuron Disease and Cerebral Palsy. The main aim is to create a completely physical free communication system, that utilises the electrical signals of the brain to control applications on a computer.

They have already done several studies to help understand the design requirements to build this system – including software, hardware and training/support components. The current study will be an evaluative, observational study that focuses on the experience of using the current prototype of this technology on people with Motor Neuron Disease.

The methodology is user-centred and incorporates both quantitative and qualitative methods. They want to look at how the training may help people master the technology (quantitative) and how they perceived using and interacting with the system (qualitative).

With the results of this study, they aim to improve upon their current prototype, so that it better meets the needs of the users.

Relationship to MND

Due to the progressive nature of motor neuron disease, people may get to a stage where no existing assistive technology can improve their functional abilities or enable them to communicate. Because brain-computer interfaces only rely on brain activity, it has the potential to assist people who have lost physical function and enable them to continue to participate and communicate later in the stages of the disease.

Future Research

They may continue to test re-iterations of the technology design, as they have noticed that they learn the most when working with the actual customers.

Identified Gaps

It would be good to get an understanding of how many people currently live with MND, and what stages of the disease.

The Team

Thoughtwired are a multidisciplinary team who have been developing this technology for the past 5 years. There idea was inspired by the CEO, Dmitry, who has a cousin with severe cerebral palsy. No existing form of assistive technology works for him, but from his interactions, they know that he has a sound mind- he just lacks the physical ability to communicate his thoughts. Dmitry came across a TED talk that discussed this technology, which inspired him to try a create something useful for people who may be in a similar situation to his cousin.

From here, Sarvnaz and James came on board to help develop and test the proof of concept. Both have backgrounds in academia at the University of Auckland, and approached the development through psychological and technical approach. This meant that from the inception, they have been working with the disability community to understand the needs of all the people who would be using and interacting with the technology.

Stuart and Sean joined us in 2017 to accelerate our research and development cycles. Stuart leads the cognitive neuroscience research, to have a better understanding of how to capture neuro-data to improve our technology. Sean is a software developer, who puts together all of our design requirements.

Contact Details

e: hello@thought-wired.com

w: http://www.thought-wired.com/ 

Scotter Lab

Researchers

Dr. Emma Scotter, PhD. Rutherford Discovery Fellow (and the team), Department of Pharmacology and Centre for Brain Research Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences University of Auckland

Current Research

Dr. Scotter heads the Motor Neuron Disease Lab at the Centre for Brain Research. Her team is focused on understanding the relationship between the deposition of protein aggregates and the death and dysfunction of various brain cells. In particular they are investigating cells of the blood-brain barrier in MND, which show impaired function that contributes to motor neuron damage. The team works with participants and with tissues:

  • Volunteers who are unaffected by neurological disease or are living with MND
  • Fixed or fresh human brain and spinal tissue
  • Brain cells grown from post mortem human brain and spinal cord tissue
  • DNA/ RNA/ proteins extracted from blood, cells, and tissues

Scotter Lab uses a range of methodology reflecting their diverse model systems:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Genomics: DNA sequencing, in situ hybridisation
  • Transcriptomics: Microarray, qRT-PCR
  • Proteomics: Immunohistochemistry, western blotting, immunocytochemistry

Relationship to MND

MND is Dr. Scotter’s primary research focus.

Future Research

Establishing a national MND genomics platform- potential collaborators are welcome to contact Dr. Scotter.

Collaborations

Dr. Scotter collaborates widely nationally and internationally on MND studies. Within the Centre for Brain Research she works with Professors Mike Dragunow and Richard Faull and Associate Professor Maurice Curtis. Dr. Scotter is on the Steering Committee for the NZ MND patient registry driven by Dr. Richard Roxburgh. She also collaborates on the genetics and cell biology of MND with Professor Christopher Shaw and Dr. Bradley Smith, King’s College London.

Resources

Scotter Lab works with banked human MND brain samples collected by the NZ Neurological Foundation Douglas Human Brain Bank. They also work with human MND brain cells grown by the Hugh Green BioBank.

Identified Gaps

Dr Scotter: “Personnel. Funding for postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers specifically in MND research is required to build capacity in MND research in NZ. Connections between NZ researchers with any MND research interest are also essential if we are to characterise MND here at home”.

The Team

Professor Mike Dragunow, Associate Investigator
Molecular mechanisms of human brain neurodegeneration

Dr. Deidre MacVeigh, Postdoctoral fellow
Drug discovery and mechanisms of blood-brain-barrier dysfunction

Andrew Siemens, Technician
Research support and characterisation of C9ORF72-positive human brain cells

Sarah Waters, Honours student
Mapping blood-brain-barrier leakage in motor neuron disease

Jayne McLean, Manager of the New Zealand Motor Neuron Disease Research Network

Contact Details

85 Park Road,
Grafton
Private Bag 92019
Auckland New Zealand
p: +64 9 3737599 (ext. 81350) +64 9 923 1350 (Direct dial)