Please send in your queries, CV and preferred project titles to students@uqccr.uq.edu.au.

Identification of novel biomarkers of neuronal death for use in monitoring Motor Neurone disease

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor Pamela McCombe

Project Description: Motor neurone disease (MND), also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a devastating disease in which the average survival time after diagnosis is less than 5 years. There are no useful predictive markers of the disease progression. The aim of this project is to identify biomarkers for MND. Possible methods in this project include electrophysiology and statistical analyses, MRI, ELISA, Western blots, DNA sequencing.

Gene expression in peripheral blood following human ischemic stroke

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor Pamela McCombe

Project Description: We have found that the expression of some hypoxia signal pathway-related genes is changed in immune cells of stroke patient. This project will aim to characterise the particular cell types in which these genes are changed, and how this gene regulation affects the function of the immune cells. Methods to be used in the project include cell separation, RNA preparation, rtPCR.

Hypoxia damage and function of T cells in ischemic stroke

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor Pamela McCombe

Project Description: Previously we have shown that the numbers and activation of T cells, including T regulatory cells, are increased following stroke compared to age-matched healthy individuals. In this project, we will investigate if this increased T cell activation is induced by hypoxia damage. Methods in this project includes separation of T cells, hypoxia treatment, Flow cytometry. 

Dopaminergic modulation of language

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor David Copland

Project Description: Little is known about the modulation of language processing by dopamine. This project would use neurophysiological and psycholinguistic techniques to determine whether dopamine influences aspects of cognition and language. Approaches used would include placebo controlled studies of language function and its neural substrates with functional MRI.

Pharmacotherapy for language disorders

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor David Copland

Project Description: Pharmacological agents may boost language treatment outcomes after stroke, yet work in this area has been limited. This project would investigate the influence of taking a drug versus placebo prior to receiving treatment for word retrieval deficits after stroke.

Neurophysiological markers of language recovery after stroke

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor David Copland

Project Description: Predictors of language recovery following stroke are currently poor and typically based on language battery performance. This project would investigate whether neurophysiological measures in acute stroke (including EEG) provide a more accurate predictor of language recovery at 6 months post-stroke.

Language and cognition in Parkinson's disease: Influence of deep brain stimulation and dopamine

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor David Copland

Project Description: Parkinson's disease is associate with cognitive deficits yet the neural mechanisms involved are unclear. This project will consider the influence of deep brain stimulation on language and cognition in Parkinson's disease and will examine brain activity during cognitive processing in Parkinson's using EEG and functional MRI.

 

Immune response to human stroke

Title: Investigation of immune responses in human patients following stroke to determine the type of response and correlate with that with the outcomes for the patient

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor Pamela McCombe

Project Description: This project aims to investigate immune responses occurring after stroke, to determine if these immune responses contribute to either brain damage or tissue repair. It involves studying how these immune responses are regulated and whether some components of the immune response correlate with the clinical outcome. Methods to be used in this project include in vitro assays of peripheral blood mononuclear cells, flow cytometry, ELISA, Western blots.

Investigating how pregnancy affects gene expression in the central nervous system (CNS)

Title: Investigating how pregnancy affects gene expression in the central nervous system (CNS), and whether these changes are protective against subsequent immune attack in the CNS

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Professor Pamela McCombe

Project Description: This project aims to investigate immune responses occurring after stroke, to determine if these immune responses contribute to either brain damage or tissue repair. It involves studying how these immune responses are regulated and whether some components of the immune response correlate with the clinical outcome. Methods to be used in this project include in vitro assays of peripheral blood mononuclear cells, flow cytometry, ELISA, Western blots.

NF-kB signalling pathway in multiple sclerosis

Title: Investigating whether polymorphisms in regulatory molecules involved in the pro-inflammatory NF-kB pathway in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) lead to constitutive activation of NF-kB and development of chronic forms of MS

Type of project: Honours/PhD/MPhil

Supervisor: Dr Judith Greer

Project Description: There is some evidence from studies in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) that pregnancy can have both short-term and long-term beneficial effects against MS. In the current project, we will identify genes that are up or down-regulated in the brain and spinal cord during pregnancy, both in healthy animals and in animals that have developed EAE, the animal model of MS. Based on this gene regulation, we will investigate possible mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of pregnancy.

EEG correlates of emotional processing in Parkinson’s disease

Type of project: PhD/ MPhil/ Honours/ Summer Research/ DPsyc

Supervisor: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka , Professor David Copland

Project Description: Emotional processing has shown to alter in Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients. This project aims to identify these disruptions to emotional processing in PD patients with and without affective disturbances like depression and anxiety. The study will involve testing various psychological paradigms that elicit emotional processors and will couple with EEG to identify electrophysiological markers of these emotional processors. 

EEG correlates of visual word emotional processing in young adults

Type of project: Honours

Supervisor: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka , Professor David Copland

Project Description: The study will examine event related brain potentials generated in an EEG while people perform an affective priming psychological paradigm based on visual emotional words. The student will be responsible for recruiting young adults, EEG data acquisition, analysis and preparation of publications. 

EEG correlates of emotional processing in people with depressive and anxiety disorders

Type of project: PhD/ MPhil/ Honours

Supervisor: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka , Professor David Copland

Project Description: The study will involve testing various psychological paradigms that eliciting emotional processors and will couple with EEG to identify electrophysiological markers of emotional processing. Alterations to emotional processing will be examined in people with affective disturbances. Primarily, a visual word affective priming paradigm will be used to elicit automatic emotional processing in people with major depression, generalised anxiety disorder, phobic disorders and panic disorder. While the study primarily focuses on emotional processing in older adults, it will also conduct a comparison study in young adults with various affective disturbances.

Use of brain imaging EEG techniques to monitor neuropsychology treatment outcomes in Parkinson’s disease

Type of project: PhD/ MPhil/ Honours

Supervisor: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

Project Description: This project aims to examine the utility of EEG to monitor treatment outcomes in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Event related potentials in an EEG generated while processing tasks that elicit information about affective emotional processing will be applied pre and post treatment. The student will be responsible for obtaining these pre-post EEG data, analysis of this data and preparation of publications. 

Assessing progression of Parkinson’s disease using epidemiological, clinical and biological end points

Type of project: PhD/ MPhil/ Honours/ DPsyc

Supervisor: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

Project Description: This project will primarily focus on the cohort of PD patients that have participated in an existing study focussed on neuropsychiatry disturbances in PD. The project endeavours to review progression of disease in these PD patients with and without neuropsychiatric complications. This will include a mailout to gather epidemiological information, patient interviews to gather clinical characteristics, and EEG experiments to gather neurobiological changes post 12-24months of baseline assessments that we have already performed. The student will be responsible for all or parts of this project. 

 

EEG correlates of impulsivity in Parkinson’s disease patients with and without impulse control disorders

Type of project: Honours

Supervisor: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

Project Description: Dopaminergic therapy induced addictive behaviours like impulse control disorders have been shown to present in ~20% of Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients. This study will focus on neurobiology of impulse control disorders using EEG. The student will be responsible to develop and test various paradigms eliciting impulsivity and acquire event related potential generated in an EEG while patients perform these tasks.

Psychotherapy treatment methods for various neuropsychiatric manifestations in Parkinson’s disease

Title: Development and implementation of psychotherapy treatment methods for various neuropsychiatric manifestations in Parkinson’s disease

Type of project: PhD/ MPhil/ Honours/ DPsyc

Supervisor: Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

Project Description: Neuropsychological disturbances like depression, anxiety, apathy, cognitive decline, and impulse control disorders are common in Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients. This project will focus on developing and implementing psychotherapy protocols tailored to treat patients with PD. These protocols will identify PD specific symptom characteristics and will develop treatment methods targeted to alleviate these PD specific symptoms. 

Non-invasive brain stimulation to enhance cognition in health and disease

Type of project: PhD/ MPhil/ Honours

Supervisor: Associate Professor Marcus Meinzer

Project Description: These studies will use a novel combination of non-invasive transcranial direct current stimulation and concurrent functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess neural correlates of improved cognition (e.g., language, memory, theory of mind) in a number of different populations (e.g., healthy younger and older individuals, patients with dementia or stroke).

The flipside of noise: Does it benefit listening and learning?

Type of project: PhD

Supervisor: Professor David Copland

Project Description: People with low attention capacity can experience improvements in cognitive function (eg memory) in the presence of external white noise. This research aims to determine the brain mechanisms for this improvement, and how it impacts oral language comprehension and verbal learning. In doing so, the research will challenge the prevailing view that noise is always detrimental to mental processes, and will provide a theoretical framework for predicting how an individual’s cognitive capacity is impacted by the presence of noise.