Funding for pilot study in Huntington’s disease and Motor Neurone Disease

Posted on: 01 October 2020

Róisín McMackin, final year PhD student at the Academic Unit of Neurology, has been awarded the highly competitive Brainbox Initiative Research Challenge prize for 2020.

Established in 2016, the Brainbox Initiative Research Challenge aims to assist and promote early-career neuroscientists with the most ambitious research proposals gain crucial access to the non-invasive brain stimulation and imaging equipment and training that they need to make their plans a reality.

This award will provide Róisín with state-of-the-art neurostimulation equipment, further expert training and funding to perform a ground-breaking pilot study in Huntington’s disease and Motor Neurone Disease.

This research will investigate how neural networks which connect cognitive and motor areas of the brain are affected by these neurodegenerative diseases and how these connections relate to each patient’s disease symptoms.

Róisín is currently seeking ethical approval for her novel study, and, in her next steps, will seek to optimise the study design for this project – consulting with Dr Bahman Nasseroleslami, Academic Unit of Neurology and Professor Richard Carson, School of Psychology, Trinity College to achieve this, before starting participant recruitment for the study in December this year.

To date, Róisín has set up a full threshold tracking laboratory at Trinity College comprised of DuoMAG TMS equipment, and is focusing current efforts on managing and modifying her existing code to facilitate the implementation of the planned paired pulse protocols that she will need to carry out the study. This existing lab setup will then be bolstered with the loan of a Brainsight TMS Navigation system and additional DuoMAG TMS Coils from Brainbox to help Róisín add a deeper level of repeatability and reproducibility to her study in the coming months.

The findings of this research will be finalised and ready to present at several conferences throughout 2021, including the ENCALS Symposium 2021 in the summer, the European Huntington’s Disease Network Plenary Meeting in September, and the Brainbox Initiative Conference 2021.

Róisín McMackin said:

I am delighted to be able to progress our exciting research to date with this support from the Brainbox Initiative. The Research Challenge prize will allow me to further investigate how motor and cognitive symptoms in Huntington’s and Motor Neurone Disease relate to underlying brain dysfunction, and research if changes in brain network function can predict the symptoms that patients will experience. This pilot study can then help us gather further funding and support to bring our research towards real world applications. Additionally, the support and promotion that the Brainbox Initiative will provide will be hugely beneficial to my career in the field of neurophysiological research.

Professor Orla Hardiman, Professor of Neurology, Academic Unit of Neurology, Trinity College  said:

This is a fantastic achievement for the Academic Unit of Neurology at Trinity College Dublin,  and for the group headed by Dr.Bahman Nasseroleslami.    This cutting-edge work  will help to develop new treatments for neurodegeneration by developing new ways of measuring brain function and dysfunction and will pave the way for new markers that can be incorporated into future clinical trials. 

Róisín hopes to submit her thesis Human Neurodegeneration: A Spectral EEG and TMS based Approach in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis later this year.


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