Dementia & Neuro Mental Health Unit


Dementia & Neuro Mental Health Unit, led by Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, facilitates a pipeline of clinical research programs to meet the increasing demands of our growing ageing population and age-related progressive brain diseases such as Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Our focus is to find better treatment, and improve quality of life and quality of care for those afflicted by incurable brain diseases, and their families.

Dementia and Parkinson’s disease are the two most common brain diseases observed in late life. Unfortunately, at present, there is no cure for such progressive diseases predominantly observed in older Australians. Dementia is the second leading cause of deaths in Australians. There are over 410,000 Australians currently suffering from dementia and over 80,000 Australian suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Everyday, around 244 Australians are diagnosed with dementia and 32 Aussies are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. With our increase in the ageing population, an exponential growth in dementia and Parkinson’s disease is expected within the next few years. By 2025 number of people with dementia and 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 annually spend $14.6 billion on dementia and $9.9 billion on Parkinson’s disease. These incurable brain diseases result in significant burden to individuals, their family members and to the society.

Our vision is to improve mental health outcomes for older Australians suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and their carers. Mental illnesses are the largest single cause of disability in Australia and costs $56.7billion annually. Depression and anxiety are common, but are poorly recognised and under treated in dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Carers of patients with such diseases also suffer from significant psychological distress, which must be recognised and treated.

Our cutting-edge program of research consists:

Neuroimaging: Brain imaging to identify mechanisms and markers for early recognition, prevention and accelerate discovery of new treatment for dementia and Parkinson’s disease

Clinical trials: New therapeutics and psychological interventions for improved management of dementia and Parkinson’s disease

We use neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and EEG, technological personalised medicine approaches, and conduct clinical trials. Our multidisciplinary collaborative team includes Neuroscientists (cognitive neurosciences and signal processing experts), Digital Health Experts (information technology, data science, and software engineering), Medical Officers (Neurologists, Psychiatrists, and Geriatricians), and Allied Health Professionals (Clinical Psychologists, Neuropsychologists, Speech Pathologists, and Physiotherapists). Our strategic framework is supported by established partnerships with national and international public and private health care providers, and the Residential Aged Care industry.


+61 7 3346 6026


Examining the prevalence and characteristics of depression, anxiety, apathy and cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease patients and their carers.

Assessment tools

Investigating the validity and reliability of depression and anxiety assessment methods in Parkinson’s disease. Developing a new instrument to assess anxiety in Parkinson’s disease.

Clinical diagnosis

Characterising symptomatology of depressive, anxiety, apathy and neurocognitive disorders in Parkinson’s disease.

Brain mechanisms and markers

Examining mechanisms underlying anxiety, depression, and neurocognitive disorders in Parkinson’s disease using resting state and task dependent EEG and fMRI.


Developing and implementing new psychotherapy treatment for anxiety, depression, sleep, and chronic pain in Parkinson’s disease. Current packages include (i) cognitive behaviour therapy for anxiety, (ii) mindfulness, and (iii) interventions for sleep disturbances. 

Adverse effects (addiction)

Investigating addictive behaviours induced by dopaminergic medication in Parkinson’s disease patients: (i) impulse control disorders and (ii) dopamine dysregulation syndrome.

Learning and language processing in people with Parkinson’s disease

This project investigates the neural basis for language deficits in Parkinson’s disease using brain imaging (fMRI).

Chief investigators: Professor David Copland, Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Peter Bell, Professor Peter Silburn, Dr Katie McMahon, Professor Helen Chenery, Dr Anthony Angwin

Cognitive sequelae in Parkinson’s disease: Identifying the neural substrates

This study aims to identify the neural substrates of cognitive-linguistic impairments in Parkinson’s disease by utilizing EEG.

Chief investigators: Dr Anthony Angwin, Associate Professor David Copland, Dr Katie McMahon, Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Professor Peter Silburn

Striatal dopamine function in human cognition: Insights from language, learning and reward in Parkinson’s disease and pharmacological challenge

This study investigates the learning and language processing in Parkinson’s disease patients who have had deep brain stimulation (DBS) functional neurosurgical treatment.

Chief investigators: Dr Anthony Angwin, Professor Peter Silburn, Associate Professor David Copland, Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

Improving diagnostic methods of anxiety and depression in Parkinson’s disease

This study aims to define the phenotype of anxiety and depression in Parkinson’s disease. It also Investigates early markers for anxiety in Parkinson’s disease using psychological (affective priming) paradigms, imaging (electroencephalography, EEG) and saliva biomarkers (cortisol).

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Associate Professor David Copland, Professor Peter Silburn, Associate Professor John O’SullivanProfessor Gerard Byrne, Prof Nancy Pachana, Dr Rodney Marsh, Professor George Mellick

Emotional inhibition in Parkinson’s disease

This projects aims to identify emotional inhibition in Parkinson’s disease patients with and without affective disturbances using psychological paradigms coupled with EEG.

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Associate Professor David Copland, Dr Anthony Angwin, David Hennessy (Masters in Clinical Psychology student), Associate Professor John O’Sullivan

Perspectives and experiences of Parkinson’s disease patients with drug induced impulse control disorders and dopamine dysregulation syndrome

This qualitative study aims to identify the phenomenology of DRT-induced impulse control disorders, patients’ understanding of their condition and their ability to control their behaviours, and patients’ moral identity and beliefs about their personal responsibility.

Chief investigators: Dr Adrian Carter, Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Professor Wayne Hall, Associate Professor John O’Sullivan

Cognitive behavioral therapy to treat anxiety and depression in Parkinson’s disease

This project aims to design and implement cognitive behavioral therapy for Parkinson’s disease patients. A Waitlist controlled RCT was commenced in 2016.

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Professor Nancy Pachana, Dr Leander Mitchell, Professor Gerard Byrne, Associate Professor John O'Sullivan, Dr Rodney Marsh

Mindfulness for Parkinson’s disease

This project investigates the benefits of mindfulness group therapy to alleviate depression, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction and parkinsonism symptoms in Parkinson’s disease.

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Dr Paul Harnett, Professor Nancy Pachana, Farah Idu Jion (Doctorate in Clinical and Clinical Neuropsychology student), Associate Professor John O’Sullivan, Dr Rodney Marsh, Professor Gerard Byrne

Sleep Disturbances in Parkinson’s disease: A rural perspective

This project investigates sleep disturbances in people with Parkinson’s disease and their carers living in rural areas. The impact of sleep problems on patitent-carer dyadic relationship is also investigated.

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Prof Nancy Pachana, Rachael Wade (Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Clinical Neuropsychology Student)

Twillight or dimlight?

The culture of ageism in demantia care and implementation of an intervention designed as a broader approach to improve the quality of care for those with dementia.

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Prof Nancy Pachana, Nicole White (PhD student)

Management of affective and anxiety disorders in aged-care

Identification, diagnosis and the impact on wellbeing through an e-health initiative for personal carers.

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Prof Gerard Byrne, Prof Judy Wollin, Rachel Brimelow (PhD student)

Neuropsychological Profile of Behavioural Addictions in Parkinson’s Disease

This project investigate improved methods to identify dopaminergic medication induced behavioural addictions (e.g. impulse control disorders) in Parkinson’s disease.

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Dr Adrian Carter (Monash University), Andrew Dawson (PhD student- Monash University),  A/Prof John O’Sullivan, Prof Murat Yucel (Monash University), Prof Andrew Evans (University of Melbourne)

Markers and Mechanisms of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson’s disease

This fMRI study examines impairments in attention and language networks associated with mild cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease.

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, Prof Gerard Byrne, Prof David Copland, A/Prof Katie McMahon, A/Prof John O’Sullivan, Ji Hyun (Julia) Yang (PhD student) 


Subjective and Objective Assessment of Multiple Modality Therapy for Temporomandibular Disorder

Chief investigators: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, A/Prof Udantha Abeyratne, Dr Karen McCloy (PhD student)

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 engage with our research program in many ways including:

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

Our Brisbane program is open to everyone, irrespective of where you live.

Contact us on 07 33465577 or


Contact us on +61 7 3346 5577 or to make a donation to our research.

Alternatively, click on the button below. When choosing a giving destination, please select "Other", then specify: Dissanayaka Group - UQCCR.


How VR technology is reducing psychological problems in older people

Treating anxiety and depression in Parkinson's and dementia patients