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Our research programme in MND/Neurodegeneration includes 20 individuals across a wide research domain.  Our research provides a translational framework that incorporates basic, translational, clinical and social domain, facilitating a system biology approach to disease.

Key Research Programmes in Neurodegeneration

Deep Phenotyping

Our group is recognized as the key amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) centre for research in Ireland. We are international experts on clinical management, epidemiology and genetics of ALS. Our group was the first to show that the phenotype and natural history of incident and prevalent patients with ALS/MND differs; that attendance at a multidisciplinary clinic independently improves survival, and that the presence of executive impairment is an important determinant of disease progression.

Population Based Genetic Research

With our long term collaborator Prof. Dan Bradley in the Smurfit Institute of Genetics we have a large programme in ALS genetics. We have generated a large GWAS dataset of Irish patient and control DNA.  In addition to our international contribution to GWAS datasets, we contributed to sequencing of the first Irish genome, and have published in the structure and geographic variability of the Irish population. We are currently engaged in an exome sequencing project using novel algorithms for relatedness within the Irish population, based on detailed interrogation our dataset.

Biomarker Programme

With collaborators Dr. Ed Lalor (School of Engineering) and Dr. Arun Bokde (TCIN) we have identified a series of novel technologies using 3T MRI and spectral EEG.  We are members of the international NISALS collaboration for imaging in ALS. Our cutting edge work using spectral EEG has the potential to develop as an important non-invasive biomarker of disease progression in ALS and FTD.

Neuropsychology Research

Our current neuropsychology programme is focused on the important overlap between ALS/MND and the frontotemporal dementias. We have recently published the only population-based study of the epidemiology of cognitive impairment in ALS/MND and have characterized a series of  key neuropsychological features that are prognostic indicators.  Our work has also provided insights into the normal working brain, particularly with regard to social cognition and emotional processing. 

Epidemiology and Health Services Research

The Irish ALS/MND Register, founded in 1995, has enabled our group to perform a range of health services related research. We were the first group to show that attendance at a multidisciplinary clinic improves survival in ALS.  We have published extensively in ALS epidemiology, and are founder members of the European ALS Consortium in epidemiology (EURALS) and the European Consortium for the Cure of ALS (ENCALS), of which I am the Deputy Chair. 

We have recently been awarded funding from the Health Research Board to undertake a large study of health services in motor neurone disease, with partners Prof. Charles Normand (Health Policy),  Prof. Virpi Timonen (Social Studies),  Prof. Anthony Staines (Epidemiology & Health Services, DCU), Prof. Ivan Perry (Epidemiology UCC) and Dr. Regina McQuillan (St.Francis Hospice). 

Neuropharmacology and New Drug Development

Neurology has an active cutting-edge research programme that is focused on developing novel pharmacotherapy for central nervous system (CNS) disorders involving neuronal injury and disturbances of neurobiological functions.

Currently, core research is centered on preclinical development of a novel lead neurotherapeutic compound (LC).  LC has a unique groundbreaking design that enables the well-recognized, multifactorial, neurotherapeutic and homeostatic effects of the naturally-occurring neuropeptide thyrotrophin-releasing hormone (TRH) to be utilized in the clinic in ways that have not been previously possible.  LC thereby offers an innovative multifunctional approach to the treatment of a wide range of CNS disorders, including acute and chronic neurodegenerative conditions, such as CNS trauma and Motor Neuron Disease (MND), and epilepsy. LC has significant and clinically relevant therapeutic benefit in several models of neurodegeneration and represents a very exciting advancement in drug development.

Grants Awarded

Last updated 23 November 2016 Neurology (Email).