Dementia & Neuro Mental Health Research Unit


Group Head: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

The Dementia and Neuro Mental Health Research Unit, led by Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, facilitates a pipeline of clinical research programs focusing on finding better treatments, improving quality of life and quality of care for those afflicted by incurable, progressive brain diseases, as well as their families.

Age-related progressive brain diseases have an increasing social and economic impact due to growth in Australia’s ageing population. Dementia and Parkinson’s disease are the two most common brain diseases observed in later life. These diseases result in significant burden to individuals, their family members and to society.

There are over 410,000 Australians currently diagnosed with dementia and over 80,000 Australians disgnosed with Parkinson’s disease. By 2025 the number of people with dementia or Parkinson’s disease is estimated to double and by 2050, this number is projected to reach over 1 million. At present, over half of Australians in residential aged care facilities have dementia. Estimates suggest that Australians spend $14.6 billion annually on dementia and $9.9 billion on Parkinson’s disease.

Our vision is to improve mental health outcomes for older Australians living with dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and their carers. Depression and anxiety are common, but are poorly recognised and undertreated in people living with dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Care partners can also experience significant distress, which must be recognised and treated.

Our multidisciplinary collaborative team includes locally, nationally and internationally:

  • Neuroscientists (cognitive neurosciences and signal processing experts)
  • Digital Health Experts (information technology, data science, and software engineering)
  • Medical Officers (Neurologists, Psychiatrists, and Geriatricians)
  • Allied Health Professionals (Clinical Psychologists, Neuropsychologists, Speech Pathologists, and Physiotherapists).

We use brain imaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI) and EEG to identify mechanisms and markers for early detection, prevention and to accelerate the discovery of new therapeutics and psychological interventions for dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Our group specialises in technological personalised medicine approaches, and conducting clinical trials in the following areas:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia
  • Cognitive impairment & dementia.

Our strategic framework is supported by established partnerships with national and international public and private health care providers, community organisations, and the Residential Aged Care industry.

Research techniques

  1. Resting state and task dependent EEG and fMRI
  2. Pharmacological targets to reduce cognitive impairment
  3. Development and validation of neuropsychological tools
  4. Virtual reality, telehealth and wearable devices
  5. Psychotherapy clinical trials


+61 7 3346 6026

Group Leader

  • Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

    Group Leader
    Senior Research Fellow & NHMRC Boosting Dementia Res Fellow
    UQ Centre for Clinical Research
    Affiliate Research Fellow
    School of Psychology


Research Fellows

Higher Degree Research Students

Community involvement is a significant component of our research. We welcome persons living with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, their families, and residential aged care staff to become involved with our research program. This can include:

  • Engaging with our research community advisory teams
  • Getting directly involved with research protocol development
  • Participating in community focus group discussions.

Our program is based in Brisbane, but through our expertise in telehealth the program is open to everyone, irrespective of where you live.

Contact us on 07 3346 5577 or


Contact Nicole Zanyat ( on 0448 413 157 to make a donation to our research.

Alternatively, click on the button below. 


How VR technology is reducing psychological problems in older people

Treating anxiety and depression in Parkinson's and dementia patients