Research Projects

 
 
 

Our research is or has been supported by the following funding bodies: 

 

PhD Opportunities

CAIN is always looking for bright and enthusiastic PhD students! We are happy to talk about your ideas, especially if they are related to cognitive ageing or dementia. Alternatively, here is a link to some projects we would be very keen to involve some PhD students. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are interested in joining our team!

 

Current Research Projects include:

Cancer-related Cognitive Impairment

Cancer related cognitive impairment (CRCI) is commonly experienced by cancer patients following cancer treatment. Patients report problems in the domains of memory, processing speed, attention and executive function. CRCI generally improves over time; however, some report symptoms persisting for a decade. This research aims to understand which cancer patients experience CRCI and the impact of these cognitive difficulties on everyday life. CAIN members involved: Amanda Hutchinson & Elise Thompson

 

Cognitive consequences of cardiovascular surgeries

Over 10,000 adults 65 years and over undergo a cardiovascular surgery in Australia every year.  These individuals are usually at high risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, given their typically long histories of vascular disease, and these surgeries often put them at further risk.  We are running a number of studies in collaboration with the Heart Theme in the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute looking at the cognitive consequences of cardiovascular surgeries and how we can intervene.  CAIN members involved: Hannah Keage, Tobias Loetscher, Erica Tilley, Danielle Greaves, and collaborators Dr Peter Psaltis (SAHMRI) and Dr Daniel Davis (UCL).

 
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Cerebrovascular functioning in Parkinson’s Disease

The mechanisms which lead to cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease are poorly understood.  One proposed mechanism is impairment of the ability of the brain’s neurovasculature to regulate blood flow in response to changes in brain activity.  This study will investigate whether responsiveness of the cerebrovascular system differs in Parkinson’s patients with and without cognitive impairment, compared to neurologically healthy controls, in the face of increasing cognitive demand. 
CAIN members involved: Hannah Keage and collaborator Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino (University of Adelaide)

 

Cognitive reserve

There is an individual variability in how people cope with brain injury, including age- and dementia-related neuropathologies.  Two people with the same brain injury can experience very different cognitive impairments, one may have dementia whilst the other may have no clinical impairments.  This phenomenon is known as cognitive reserve.  Here at CAIN we are investigating the neural mechanisms and cognitive consequences of cognitive reserve using a variety of techniques, including electroencephalography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
CAIN members involved: Louise Lavrencic, Hannah Keage, Scott Coussens and collaborators Dr Owen Churches (Flinders University),  and collaborators Associate Professor Mike Ridding and Dr Mitch Goldsworthy (University of Adelaide), Dr Thais Minett and Elijah Mak (University of Cambridge), and Dr Blossom Stephan (Newcastle University).

 

Expectation and repetition suppression in the visual system

We are consistently bombarded by visual stimuli, and the brain has a variety of strategies to exploit the dynamics of our visual environment. For example, repetition of a stimulus leads to exposure-dependent changes in response properties of cortical neurons, known as repetition suppression or neuronal adaptation. We are investigating some of the factors that modulate the magnitude of repetition effects, including temporal attention (i.e. attention focused in time) and expectations about the images that we will see in the immediate future. To investigate this we use a combination of event-related potential, fast periodic visual stimulation and multivariate pattern classification methods. CAIN members involved: Daniel Feuerriegel, Hannah Keage, Scott Coussens and collaborators Bruno Rossion (University of Louvain) and Owen Churches (Flinders University).

 
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Natural history of scanning behaviour in patients with visual field defects after stroke

A visual field defect is a common consequence of stroke with a detrimental effect upon the survivors’ functional ability and quality of life. Understanding the natural evolution of scanning compensation over time may have important ramifications for the development of efficacious therapies. The study aims to unravel the natural history of visual scanning behaviour in patients with visual field defects. The assessment of scanning patterns in the acute to chronic stages of stroke will reveal who does and does not learn to compensate for vision loss.
CAIN members involved: Dr Tobias Loetscher, Rebecca Callahan, Emily Rosenich, and collaborators A/Prof Celia Chen (Flinders Uni) and A/Prof Andrew Lee (Calvary Wakefield Hospital, Flinders University)

 

Neurovascular coupling in Vascular Cognitive Impairment No Dementia

The early detection of brain changes leading to cognitive impairment and dementia is critically important for early intervention.  We know that vascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and being overweight (particularly in mid-life) increases the risk of dementia in later life.  This study investigates associations between cardiovascular health and cognitive function, from mid to late-life, and the role of neurovascular coupling in these effects.
CAIN members involved: Drs Ashleigh Smith and Hannah Keage, Daniel Feuerriegel and Danielle Greaves.

 

Predicting outcome after stroke

Every 10 minutes someone in Australia has a stroke. Stroke-related cognitive impairment affects around 24% of survivors and is related to poorer psychological health, ability to perform activities of daily living, and overall quality of life compared to stroke survivors without cognitive impairment. If these outcomes can be accurately predicted soon after stroke onset, early access to appropriate rehabilitation may be facilitated, ultimately improving long-term outcomes. We are running several studies investigating the accuracy of current clinical predictions, as well as methods of better predicting outcomes. We are particularly interested in the predictive value of bedside electroencephalography.
CAIN members involved: Rebecca Callahan, Dr Tobias Loetscher, Dr Hannah Keage, Dr Scott Coussens, and collaborators A/Prof Andrew Lee (Calvary Wakefield Hospital, Flinders University) and Dr Blossom Stephan (Newcastle University).

 
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Risk judgement

We have around a 1 in a million chance of dying from an accident every day, and this acute risk is quantified as 1 MicroMort.  We increase our risk through activity choices and MicroMorts index their acute risk of death. We are running a number of behavioural and electrophysiological studies investigating how people understand risks associated with everyday activities (outside of gambling/financial risk).  CAIN members involved: Hannah Keage, Tobias Loetscher, Scott Coussens, Dilushi Chandrakumar, Daniel Feuerriegel, and collaborator Stefan Bode (UMelbourne).

 
Types of dystonia. Picture taken from here.

Types of dystonia. Picture taken from here.

Spatial perception in Cervical Dystonia

Cervical Dystonia (CD) is a neurological disorder characterised by involuntary neck muscle contractions that may lead to abnormal head and neck postures. The objective of this study is to investigate the consequences of an abnormal lateral head posture on spatial perception and participation in everyday life.
CAIN members involved: Dr Tobias Loetscher, Rebecca Callahan, Emily Rosenich, and collaborator Professor Lynley Bradnam (University of Technology Sydney).

 
Picture by Dr Owen Churches

Picture by Dr Owen Churches

Verbal fluency in Mild Cognitive Impairment

The goal of the current study is to devise a more versale paradigm than the classic verbal fluency task where people list as many words beginning with a specific letter (e.g. ‘s’) or that are part of a certain category (e.g. animals). Instead we aim to gauge word meaning in a broad sense, controls the executive aspects of language, is sensitive to different domains and types of dementia, and would result in a diagnostic tool in both detection and tracking of treatment outcomes.
CAIN members involved: Dr Hannah Keage, Scott Coussens, Danielle Greaves, Owen Churches (Flinders University) and Simon DeDeyne (University of Adelaide).