University of Auckland

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University of Auckland


Dr Monica Acosta
Animal models of retinal degeneration and brain pathologies associated with visual problems.

Prof Donna Rose Addis
Combining neuroimaging, behavioural and neuropsychological methods to investigate how the brain remembers past experiences, how we use memory to simulate future events and construct a sense of identity, and how these abilities change in healthy ageing and dementia. The role of the hippocampus in memory, and research with populations with hippocampal dysfunction, including Alzheimer’s disease, temporal lobe epilepsy and depression.

Prof Alan Barber
Clinical neurology, stroke specialist. Research interests include the use of advanced neurophysiology and MRI techniques in stroke.

Prof Margaret Brimble
Synthesis of novel peptide hormones and proteins especially peptides derived from neurotrophins. Construction of peptide-based drugs engineered to improve pharmaceutical performance. Synthesis of complex bioactive natural products using asymmetric synthesis, heterocyclic chemistry and organocatalysis. Peptide chemistry, with two peptide-based drug candidates now in clinical trials. Synthesis of complex glycopeptides, lipopeptides, labelled peptides, peptidomimetics and long peptides. Rigorous structure determination using nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectrometry and X-ray crystallography. Synthesis and screening compounds from natural product library using Biobank tissues.

Prof Winston Byblow
Neural control of movement in health and disease, including ways to enhance motor recovery after stroke, and improve movement abilities of people with movement disorders. Expertise in neuroplasticity assessment, functional MRI, noninvasive brain stimulation, electromyography.

Dr Gary Cheung
Community psycho geriatrician. Clinical expertise includes the diagnosis and management of early cognitive disorders. Research interests include clinical education, driving and dementia, advance care planning in dementia, outcome measures and rating scales in old age psychiatry.

Prof Bronwen Connor
Gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease; development of stem cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and stroke; identification of novel agents for the treatment of depression. Biological function and role of neural stem cells in the adult brain, and the response of neural stem cells to brain injury or disease. Somatic cell reprogramming of adult human fibroblasts to produce neural precursor cells for disease modelling, drug-screening and cell replacement strategies.

Prof Garth Cooper
Discovery of novel peptide hormones and proteins, detailed functional analysis of purified proteins in cellular and whole animal models and human systems. Construction of peptide-based drugs and development of proteins with functions engineered to improve pharmaceutical performance. Defining new drugs and drug targets, based upon the identification of new proteins and physiological processes. The metabolic basis and experimental therapeutics of Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Dr Sarah Cullum
Geriatric psychiatrist with experience in cognitive assessment and dementia diagnosis, management and prevalence.

Prof Maurice Curtis
Mechanisms of stem cell proliferation in neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding the regulation of stem/progenitor cell migration in the brain at the molecular and cellular level. Plasticity in the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s brain. Early origins of neurodegenerative diseases with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Deputy Director of the NFNZ Human Brain Bank.

Prof Mike Dragunow
Molecular mechanisms of human brain neurodegeneration and repair and development of novel treatments for brain diseases using adult human brain material, tissue microarray, cell culture models (cell lines and primary adult human brain cultures), molecular pharmacology and high-content analysis. Understanding causes of human neurodegeneration and testing and development of new treatment strategies.

Dr Makarena Dudley
Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri, Ngati Kahu ki Whangaroa
Clinical psychologist with significant experience working with Traumatic Brain Injury. Research interests include dementia in Māori, and the development of a Māori theory/model of dementia working towards developing an assessment/screening measure for dementia in Māori.

Sir Richard Faull
Molecular biological and anatomical studies on the chemical changes in the following major neurodegenerative diseases of the human brain – Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and Motor Neuron disease. Clinical profile and chemical anatomical pathology and genotype in HD to determine whether variations in clinical symptomatology are reflected by variations in the chemical pathology and HD gene. Establishment of a transgenic sheep model of Huntington’s disease. Molecular mechanisms and patterns of nerve cell death and repair in neurodegenerative diseases focusing on the role of transcription factors and growth factors, and using in vitro cell culture models, and transgenic animal models. Investigations on the potential of various novel methods to treat neurodegenerative diseases including gene therapy techniques (decoy DNA, antisense DNA, peptide nucleic acids), and neurotrophins to prevent neuronal death in neurodegenerative diseases. Neurogenesis in the human brain including whether stem cells in the adult human brain and spinal cord have the ability to proliferate and form new neurons in response to brain injury and disease, pathways of neurogenesis in the human brain, mechanisms involved in the induction of neurogenesis, and whether stem cells have the potential to ‘repair’ the injured or diseased adult brain and spinal cord.

Assoc Prof Jian Guan
Biological function of insulin-like growth factor-1 and its metabolites in preventing and improving the recovery from acute injuries and in chronic neurological conditions in neonatal, infant, young adult and ageing brains. Effects of nutrition on brain development, premature ageing and cognitive function; vascular degeneration and remodeling in neurological conditions and recovery. Animal models, behavioural testing, neuronal anatomy, neurobiology and pharmacology.

Prof Ngaire Kerse
Maximising health for older people by studying the pathway from impairment to dependence with a particular interest in the very old and those with dementia in all settings. The LILACS NZ cohort study examines predictors of successful advanced ageing in Māori and non- Māori. A mix of clinical, health services and public health research aims to improve care and outcomes for older people. In the CORE, development and testing of interventions delivering dual cognitive and physical training to prevent progression of MCI is a priority and examining predictors of progression of cognitive decline in the very old. Establishment of the dementia clinics is also a priority.

Prof Ian Kirk
Neural systems involved in memory and attentional processes, and the genetic mechanisms that modulate these systems such as BDNF and COMT. Functional (EEG and fMRI) and structural (DTI) imaging to investigate the temporal and spatial neurodynamics, and the anatomical substrates, of cognitive processes. Atypical processing in a number of disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Prof Janusz Lipski
Cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuronal damage in models of Parkinson’s disease and stroke. Physiology and pathophysiology of dopaminergic neurons in the Substantia Nigra, and pyramidal neurons in the hippocampus. Cellular effects of neurotoxins, L-DOPA, psychostimulants and TRP channel activation. Neuroprotective role of glutamate transporters and antioxidants. In vitro models (acute brain slices and organotypic slice culture), electrophysiology, calcium imaging, measurement of cell swelling, ROS production, immunocytochemistry/western blots, receptor pharmacology and optogenetics.

Assoc Prof Johanna Montgomery
Molecular mechanisms that underlie the physiology of excitatory synapses in the brain combining electrophysiology, molecular biology and imaging techniques to investigate how changes in synapse function could underlie developmental disorders such as Autism, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s Disease and hearing changes.

Prof Suzanne Purdy
Communication and cognition in adults and children with auditory and neurological dysfunction (including auditory processing disorder, Parkinson’s disease, stroke/aphasia and autism). Research areas include speech perception and production, language, affective prosody and auditory processing. Techniques include behavioral assessment of cognition, perception and wellbeing and electrophysiological evaluation of auditory and language processing function across the lifespan. Recent studies have examined music based (choral singing) therapies for people with neurological disease (aphasia & Parkinson’s disease) and emotional word based therapy for people with aphasia.

Assoc Prof Grant Searchfield
Hearing and deafness, Hearing aids, Auditory cognitive processes and training, Mechanisms of tinnitus assessment and management of tinnitus, Auditory adaptation in response to ageing and psychosocial influences. Particular interest in the use of digital technology APPs, multisensory processing, hearing aids and non-invasive brain stimulation for the assessment or management of tinnitus and Neurosensory disorders.

Prof Cathy Stinear
Neuro-rehabilitation, human neurophysiology and neural plasticity focused on translating neuroscience discoveries into clinical practice. Using neurophysiology and neuroimaging tools to accurately predict the potential for motor recovery after stroke for individual patients and testing a range of neuromodulation techniques including TMS for promoting neural plasticity and enhancing the effects of neuro-rehabilitation.

Prof Peter Thorne
Interest in hearing and deafness. A major focus on the mechanisms, treatment and prevention of sensorineural deafness due to cochlear injury, especially after noise exposure (noise-induced hearing loss) and with age, using animal models and clinical populations. Approaches include molecular, anatomical and electrophysiological techniques to assess the inner ear, and systems to deliver and trial putative otoprotective compounds to the inner ear. Interest in the use of imaging to investigate the cochlea and auditory pathways and have developed techniques to assess cochlear injury using MRI and to the study of inflammatory approaches associated with cochlear implantation using animal models. Now applying these methods to assess the integrity of the blood-labyrinth barrier and development of inflammation in the human inner ear, especially with Meniere’s disease. Interest in the development of cochlear innervation and neurodegenerative changes in the auditory system associated with noise exposure and age and how these may relate to the development of cognitive impairment. Collaborate on human population epidemiological and intervention studies around noise-induced hearing loss.

Assoc Prof Lynette Tippett
Understanding the clinical and neuropsychological effects of neurological disorders, and the neural bases of these effects with a strong emphasis on neurodegenerative disorders (particularly Huntington’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Motor Neuron Disease). The neural basis of cognitive functions, with a particular focus on memory, expertise (musical and computer-gaming) and effects of expertise on lateralisation of function: Methods include both behavioural and experimental paradigms and neuroimaging techniques (using a combination of DTI, fMRI and EEG).

Prof Russell Snell
Molecular mechanisms of simple and complex neurodegenerative disorders, utilising knowledge of causal genes and their pathways to develop model systems to investigate the molecular pathogenesis of these disorders and screen for and test potential therapeutic agents. In particular, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Spinocerebellar ataxia. Genetic candidate screens looking for statistical association with DNA variation and disease in large human cohorts. Molecular methods to dissect disease mechanisms including tissue culture, proteomics, human tissue analysis, metabolomics, RNAseq and animal models (nematode worm model (C. elegans) of Alzheimer’s disease and sheep models of Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease). Analysis of exome and whole genome sequence with focus on neurodegenerative diseases of unknown cause, and Autism.

Assoc Prof Srdjan Vlajkovic
Cellular and molecular basis of cochlear homeostasis, and mechanisms of sensorineural hearing loss. Oxidative stress and inflammation in the development of noise-induced and age-related hearing loss. Purines (ATP and adenosine) involvement in cochlear physiology and the development of cochlear injury.

Assoc Prof Debbie Young
Use of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector for gene therapy and generation of rodent models of PD, HD, AD, stroke and epilepsy. Development of new gene regulation, cell targeting and gene editing tools for gene therapy. Development of antibody-based cognitive enhancers and therapies using immunisation and passive antibody transfer methods and behavioural testing in rats. Role of brain autoantibodies from human patients in disease pathogenesis and behaviour. Development of novel recombinant proteins for generation of therapeutic antibodies.


Assoc Prof Suzanne Barker-Collo
Clinical neuropsychology with interest in traumatic brain injury neuropsychological assessment and rehabilitation, post-stroke cognition and mood.

Dr Erin Cawston
Primary field of research involves the molecular pharmacology of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR). Erin’s research to date has involved various aspects of GPCR regulation from ligand stimulation, signalling and trafficking. Additionally she has studied various family A GPCRs and gained important insights related to their diversity.

Prof Michelle Glass
The expression, function and molecular biology of the cannabinoid receptors, and their potential role in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Andrea Kwakowsky
Principal interest is in the relationship of the GABAergic system in the ageing brain and in Alzheimer’s disease

Dr Catherine Morgan
Developing novel imaging methods to study normal cognition and mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease. MRI techniques include blood-brain barrier imaging, perfusion and 4D flow MRI, quantitative susceptibility mapping, resting state fMRI and Diffusion Tensor Imaging. Experience in MRI protocol development, including pulse sequence programming, protocol optimisation, image post-processing and analysis. 

Dr Simon O’Carroll
Simon’s primary area of interest is in neuroinflammation, the blood brain barrier (BBB) and systemic inflammation and cognitive decline.

Prof Cris Print
Use of bioinformatics to improve our understanding of pathology. Bringing bioinformatic information together with clinicopathological information and traditional cell biology/transgenic studies.

Assoc Prof Henry Waldvogel
Chemical neuroanatomy of the human brain and changes that occur in neurodegenerative diseases particularly in Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Motor Neuron and Alzheimer’s disease; major interest in the inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors GABAA GABAB and glycine receptors and their associated proteins. Studies at both the regional and cellular level with high resolution light and confocal laser scanning microscopy. Animal models of Huntington’s disease including the transgenic sheep model.