Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health’s mission is to improve lives through brain research. The Florey is one of the world’s top three brain research centres. Led by neurologist, Professor Geoffrey Donnan AO, some 600 staff and 150 students are committed to addressing the causes of brain disease affecting up to one in four Australians.

The Florey has strong partnerships with Austin Health, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the University of Melbourne, conducting research that underpins the future of brain health. Our imaging facilities offer unparalleled access to the workings of the brain. Internationally, our imaging team is recognised for maximising the potential of its magnetic resonance equipment, redefining the role of imaging as a diagnostic tool.

RESEARCH FOCUS

Ground-breaking work continues at the Florey in a number of laboratory and clinical areas. Prevention, better treatments and cures are sought for:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Stroke
  • Motor neurone disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Pain
  • Traumatic brain and spinal cord injury

RESEARCH DIVISIONS

Multiple Sclerosis - Professor Trevor Kilpatrick

Spanning the Florey, the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Division adopts a multifaceted approach to researching multiple sclerosis. The research recognises the need to understand the genetic determinants, environmental precipitants and molecular drivers of the disease if we are to prevent or reduce damage. The Division has developed strong collaborations with colleagues throughout Australia in order to assemble large cohorts of patients to interrogate the genetics and epidemiology of the disease and to access biological samples to adopt a fully integrated translational approach.

Stroke - Professor Julie Bernhardt and Professor Vincent Thijs

The Division has five main research teams: stroke preclinical science, the AVERT early intervention research program, the neurorehabilitation and recovery laboratory, epidemiology and public health and clinical trials. Investigations into neuroprotective and neuroregenerative drugs, advancing stroke care and predicting further incidence of stroke through biomarkers and imaging are part of this Division’s work.

Neurodegeneration - Professor Phil Beart and Professor Colin Masters

This Division focuses on how neurons live, die and can be rescued to improve brain function in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neurone diseases. The Division focuses on; Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, oxidation biology, neuropharmacology, steroid neurobiology, metalloproteomics and stem cells for disease modelling and therapies. The division contributes researchers to the Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle (AIBL) Study of Ageing. The aim of AIBL is to discover which biomarkers, cognitive characteristics and health and lifestyle factors determine subsequent development of symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease.

Biological Psychiatry and Mental Health - Professor Brian Dean and Professor Richard Kanaan

This Division undertakes basic scientific, clinical and public health research. This includes not only work in laboratories but also working with the community to run trials that help gather information about the illnesses studied. The work continues to enrich our understanding of mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The division includes the Victorian Brain Bank, a key member of the Australian Brain Bank Network which collects, stores and distributes healthy and diseased post‑mortem brain tissue for researchers around Australia and internationally.

Systems Neurophysiology - Professor Robin McAllen

This research area focuses on brain function in health and disease. The division’s focus is on how the brain controls basic bodily functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, body fluids and breathing. A second focus is on the ways that disease processes change the excitability of neurons. A third focus is on the heart and kidneys and their complex interactions with the nervous system in health and disease. Finally, the autonomic nervous system is an increasing area of interest, characterising the vagal nerve inputs to the gut and their role in controlling inflammatory diseases.

Imaging - Professor Alan Connelly and Professor Graeme Jackson

The Division studies many disease states, particularly epilepsy. Other disorders studied include multiple sclerosis, stroke, tumours, dementia and a range of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia. The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technical Development Program is world-leading in the highly active field of diffusion MRI.

Neuropeptides - Associate Professor Ross Bathgate

This Division conducts multi-disciplinary studies on the relaxin family of peptides / hormones and their receptors. The Division focuses on determining the role of these peptides and the receptors they target in a wide range of physiological and disease states, as well as identifying small molecule agonists and antagonists using sophisticated receptor stabilisation techniques.

Behavioural Neuroscience - Professor Andrew Lawrence and Professor Amy Brodtmann

This Division focuses on human cognitive disorders and the use and development of animal models. The latter reflects aspects of human disorders such as addiction, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, autism and neurodegenerative conditions such as Huntington’s disease, stroke and dementia. The division also has a deep interest in gene‑environment interactions, and using imaging and behavioural models to characterise neurodegeneration.

Brain Development and Regeneration - Professor Seong-Seng Tan

This division conducts research to understand how new brain cells are generated, become connected and survive during stress, which is pivotal to preventing and treating brain disorders. The underlying drivers of brain cell assembly are undoubtedly genetic, but the outcomes are also shaped by environmental influences. Such knowledge will provide new understanding of the causes of mental illnesses such as autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy.

Epilepsy - Professor Graeme Jackson and Professor Steven Petrou

At the Florey’s Austin campus, researchers have been undertaking high impact research using MRI for more than fifteen years to understand the structural and functional basis of human epilepsy. At the Florey’s Parkville campus, research has revealed many of the fundamental neurobiological mechanisms by which genetic abnormalities give rise to epilepsy.

The Florey hosts the following important medical infrastructure services.

Neuroscience Trials Australia

Led by Dr Tina Soulis, Neuroscience Trials Australia is an Australian-based, not-for-profit clinical trials management service specialising in neuroscience.

Psychotropic Drug Advisory Service

The Psychotropic Drug Advisory Service provides an independent central advisory and contact service with regard to the interaction between medicines used to treat mental illnesses and other drugs that affect the way we think, feel and behave. The service is provided by pharmacist Christine Culhane.

Victorian Brain Bank Network

Led by Professor Catriona McLean, the Network collects, processes and stores post-mortem human brains and related samples from individuals who have had neurological diseases (i.e. Alzheimer’s disease, motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s disease), psychiatric disorders (i.e. bipolar mood disorder, depression and schizophrenia) as well as normal ‘control’ cases.

The Florey is closely involved in the operations of the following neuroscience platforms

  • Human and Animal MRI
  • Positron Emission Tomography - Computed Tomography (PET-CT)
  • Advanced Microscopy
  • Core Animal Services
  • Behavioural Services
  • Histology Services
  • Fluorescence-activated Cell Sorting Facility
  • Statistics and Decision Analysis

www.florey.edu.au