In April 2021, Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ) held their second conference, bringing together our researchers, clinicians and community partners from across New Zealand to discuss brain research and the future of BRNZ.
The conference, held from 13-16 April at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Queenstown, started with a 2-day meeting of our national Dementia Prevention Research Clinics and a wānanga of our Māori researchers.
The conference featured sessions on the Centre of Research Excellence’s portfolios stroke, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, healthy brain ageing and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Our investigators and early career researchers were joined by our community partners, who shared their work and unique perspectives. Thank you to Nita Brown (Stroke Foundation), Stephanie Clare (Age Concern), Tammy Ramsey-Evans (Parkinson’s New Zealand), Anne Schumacher (Dementia Wellington), and Catherine Hall (Alzheimers New Zealand).
A highlight of our programme was a session on the Dementia Prevention Research Clinics, featuring the Faull Lecture. First delivered in 2019 by Prof Mike Dragunow, the Faull Lecture was established to acknowledge Sir Richard Faull’s role in co-founding BRNZ and celebrate his contribution to neuroscience. In 2021, Assoc Prof Lynette Tippett delivered the Faull Lecture titled “The Journey of the Dementia Prevention Research Clinics and their People: Past, Present and the future”.
Our early career researchers also had plenty of opportunities to shine in our poster session and Launch My Lab Competition. Courteney Westlake from the University of Otago took away the prize for best poster (“Investigating Plasticity-Related Proteins and the Therapeutic Potential of sAPPα”), followed by Leon Griner from the Dementia Prevention Research Clinics / the University of Auckland (“APOE Genotyping of DPRC Participants”), and Sophie Mathiesen from the University of Otago (“Investigating enhanced gene transfer to the mouse central nervous system using modified viral vector AAV-PHPeB”).
In our Launch My Lab Competition, six early career researchers presented their vision for setting up their own lab and captivated their audience with their creativity (lab merchandise! Poetry! Rapping!). Dr Kyla-Louise Horne (University of Otago, Christchurch) snapped up first place for her inspiring pitch titled “Confusing beliefs with perception”. Dr Helen Murray (University of Auckland) took second place with a poetic pitch titled “Neuropathology in contact sport athletes”, and Dr Joan Leung took third place with “The neural basis of sensory dysfunction.”
Congratulations to all winners and thank you to all the participants!
On Day 3, we celebrated Brain Research New Zealand and its people in a roaring conference dinner at the Skyline Restaurant. We were treated to speeches by Prof Suzanne Purdy and Emeritus Prof Warren Tate, who acknowledged the dedication and the work the BRNZ Co-Directors Prof Peter Thorne and Prof Cliff Abraham have put into our Centre of Research Excellence over the years.
We finished the conference with a discussion on the future of BRNZ. With this conference as the last big get-together as a Centre of Research Excellence, it was the perfect opportunity to present and discuss ways forward, ways to stay connected, and to continue the outstanding achievements and successes of Brain Research New Zealand. Stay tuned for more!