Huntington’s disease (HD) is a fatal inherited neurodegenerative disorder, causing progressive brain degeneration, cognitive and motor impairment. The neurological disease symptoms found in HD are associated with neuronal dysfunction, i.e., atrophy, increased or decreased activity, or connectivity, which correlate with the cognitive and motor impairments. This research project aims to answer the question of whether novel non-drug based methods that induce neuroplasticity could normalize neuronal function and may improve symptoms or slow disease progression. Real‐time fMRI neurofeedback training is a novel approach that uses real‐time fMRI and reinforcement learning to induce changes in the brain regions affected in HD. By providing participants with feedback of their own brain activity while they are doing a task, participants gradually learn to control their brain activity, and thereby induce structural and functional changes to areas of their brain affected by neurodegeneration. If HD patients learn to regulate the activity of disease-affected brain regions, they may be able to induce brain plasticity despite the presence of neurodegeneration. This novel approach may be beneficial in terms of improving brain function, improving cognitive functional outcomes, delaying clinical onset of disease or increasing quality of life. The student will utilise the purpose-built MRI facilities at the Monash Biomedical Imaging centre in Clayton, and have the opportunity to learn a range of techniques, including neurofeedback, cognitive training and neuropsychological testing techniques. A prospective PhD student interested in this opportunity must have outstanding undergraduate results, together with a strong first class Honours degree or postgraduate degree in psychology, clinical neuroscience or related disciplines. The student will be based within the Experimental Neuropsychology Research Unit, with supervision from Professor Nellie Georgiou-Karistianis (Monash University) and co-supervision from Dr Govinda Poudel (Australian Catholic University).
Huntington's disease, MRI, neurodegeneration, motor, cognitive, brain training, cognitive training, neurofeedback, dementia, neuroimaging, fMRI
Top-up scholarship funding available
18 Innovation Walk