Neuroscience, Mental Health and Sleep

Overview

Dementia, depression, sleep disorders, stroke, psychosis, suicide, addictions and autism are among a wide array of medical conditions being tackled by Monash Partners’ Neuroscience, Mental Health and Sleep Theme.

Neuroscience, Mental Health and Sleep is one of seven ‘themes’ – or areas of health of particular interest to Monash Partners. Our Theme aims to reduce chronic illness and death caused by diseases of the brain, by developing and implementing new approaches for patients affected by such diseases.

The Theme has an executive leadership group of three leading clinician neuroscientists: Professor Jayashri Kulkarni (Alfred Health and Monash University), Professor Suresh Sundram (Monash Health and Monash University), and Professor Velandai Srikanth (Peninsula Health and Monash University).

The Theme has a Steering Committee that works closely with the executive leadership. On this Committee we have discipline and specialty heads.

A key grouping within the Theme is the Monash Sleep Network, with sleep disorders forming a vital part of the work of this Theme. The network is led by Professor Shantha Rajaratnam. In the near future, a Neurology discipline head will also join the Steering Committee.

Our Priorities

Our aims and priorities for the Neuroscience, Mental Health and Sleep Theme:

  • Development of a clinical trials network in mental health at Monash Partners sites
  • Development of an integrated biobank
  • Extension of sleep disorder /circadian disturbance phenotyping
  • Further development of infrastructure needed for health services data analysis in collaboration with the Monash Partners data discipline
  • Further development of imaging research across Monash Partners
  • Developing a unified approach towards new ways of treating and assisting people with dementia and other related cognitive disorders.

Neuroscience, Mental Health and Sleep Theme Leaders

The Theme is led by Professors Jayashri Kulkarni, Suresh Sundram, and Velandai Srikanth.

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni is an expert in women’s mental health with a focus on psycho-neuroendocrinology and is the director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre and a Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University.

Professor Suresh Sundram

Professor Suresh Sundram specialises in neuroscience and molecular psychopharmacology and is the unit head for adult psychiatry at Monash Health and a Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University.

Professor Velandai Srikanth

Professor Velandai Srikanth is a geriatrician with clinical and research expertise in dementia and stroke. He is the Professor of Medicine at Peninsula Health, and the Peninsula Clinical School, Monash University.

 
 

Our Steering Committee

Our Steering Committee reflects the wide range of research and clinical work conducted across Monash Partners. Along with those listed above, included are the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, Turning Point, The Hudson Institute, School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Psychological Sciences, Central Clinical School, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash University, Eastern Health, Peninsula Health, Cabrini Health, Epworth, The Victoria Clinic and Bethlehem Hospital.

The Steering Committee’s knowledge is vast – boasting experts across an extraordinary range of specialties from the neuroscience of hunger, to circadian rhythms, to the genetics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The Theme provides excellent opportunities for new projects to be developed by utilising and combining different skills in novel ways.

Working with the Theme leaders is a world-class team of committed neuroscience, mental health and sleep specialists who share their vision and passion. The range of work covered within this Theme involves broad national and international collaborations, along with those within Monash Partners’ many health services, institutes, centres and laboratories.

Members of the Neuroscience, Mental Health and Sleep Steering Committee include:


Professor Shanthakumar Rajaratnam
Associate Professor Zane Andrews
Professor Mark Bellgrove
Professor Paul Fitzgerald
Professor Dan Lubman
Associate Professor Suzie Miller
Dr John Waterston

Our Research Programs

The scope of the Neuroscience, Mental Health and Sleep Theme is extensive. Put simply, it involves taking several approaches to better understanding and treating conditions in which Monash Partners has widely recognised expertise. The diseases we are studying include dementia, circadian dysfunction/sleep disorders, stroke/TIA, addictions, psychosis, mood disorders, autism spectrum disorder/ADHD, and women’s mental health including borderline personality disorder, anxiety/PTSD plus developmental disorders.

For many of these conditions we are working on ambitious strategies that involve using a wide array of techniques to understand disease causation and develop new approaches for people suffering with these illnesses.

The techniques we plan to use include expansion of neuroimaging for many disorders, engaging our laboratory science colleagues with animal models of disease to inform clinical research, investigating the molecular biology of disorders including expanding our genetics work, interrogating large data sets to improve service delivery and involving people with neurological and mental disorders to better understand the real world impact of their illnesses.

Some of the current programs of research within the Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sleep Theme are listed below with examples of projects conducted. This list is only a sample of the large number of excellent programs and projects conducted across this theme of Monash Partners.

Dementia
Studying whether neuroinflammation plays a major role in causing dementia; establishing health service models to assist vulnerable older people with dementia in the community; adopting standard approaches across Monash Partners in the identification and treatment of people with dementia.

Circadian and sleep disorders
A range of projects exploring sleep disturbances and providing innovative treatment strategies.

Women’s mental health
Projects in this area include a new approach for women with Complex Trauma Disorder (also known as Borderline Personality Disorder) related to early life abuse, suicide prevention projects in perimenopausal women with depression, hormone interventions for a number of psychiatric conditions and a world-first pregnancy and antipsychotic drug safety register.

Psychosis
Unravelling the molecular complexity of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders using a translational molecular psychiatry platform from affected patients and families, gene identification, cellular and animal modelling towards new treatment targets and medicines.

Mood disorders
Innovative research using brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, deep brain stimulation techniques and transcranial direct current stimulation.

Addictions
Utilising large data sets and current clinical expertise to develop new approaches for substance use. Substance abuse is a highly prevalent and rapidly growing problem in Australia.

Stroke
Using innovative technology and computing to help establish effective models of hospital care for people with stroke; implementing the findings of major trials to enable the rapid treatment of people with stroke using new clot removal therapies; adopting large scale registry data to inform on quality of stroke care across hospitals; using app-based technology to assist in improved secondary prevention of stroke; using electronic health record systems to implement better communication strategies with primary care for hospitalised patients with stroke.

Developmental disorders
Neurodevelopmental delay in children and psychosocially mediated delays have major impacts on quality of life outcomes. Important project work intervening early in life conducted by this group has overall lifelong results.