Trinity establishes The Andrew Lydon Scholarship in Motor Neurone Disease Research

On 18 September, the Academic Unit of Neurology held a ceremony to mark the establishment of a PhD scholarship in memory of Galway man Andrew Lydon. The four-year scholarship will support a PhD in Motor Neurone Disease research, and has been awarded to Trinity by the Andrew Lydon Trust.

Andrew Lydon was a young Connemara-based computer programmer and father of two teenagers. He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2010.  By 2015 he had developed breathing problems that required invasive mechanical ventilation requiring a lot of support to allow him to live at home. Andrew’s community in An Cheatru Rua, Galway, set up a trust fund to raise money to make that happen. Sadly, and after a long battle, Andrew passed away in December 2017 before it was possible for him to get home.

Andrew’s family and community decided to establish a scholarship in his name to commemorate his life and his long and courageous battle with MND. Mary Lynch McDonagh and the members of the Andrew Lydon Trust, along with Andrew’s wife Sally and his children Seosamh and Molly attended the ceremony in Trinity on 21 Sept.

Professor Orla Hardiman, Professor Peter Bede, Sally Lydon and Dr Rangariroyashe Chipika

Dr Rangariroyashe Chipika, recipient of the scholarship, will pursue her PhD focusing on changes in Brain Imaging and Signal Analysis in MND. Dr Chipika is a medical graduate of Trinity. She has already completed a Masters in Brain Imaging with her mentor Peter Bede, Research Associate Professor in Neurology, and recipient of a HRB Emerging Leader Award. “I am truly honoured to conduct my research in the name of Andrew Lydon,” said Dr Chipika. “Finding new ways to measure the changes that occur in the brain of those with MND will help us to find new and better treatments.”

Professor Peter Bede, who is supervising Dr Chipika’s work, was one of Andrew’s doctors, along with Professor Orla Hardiman, Head of the Academic Unit of Neurology. “Andrew was a truly special person,” said Professor Bede. “It is fitting that this scholarship will focus on computational analysis of imaging signals.  Andrew was a brilliant computer programmer, and I had many long discussions with him about computers, coding and technology as he participated in our brain imaging studies.”

Motor Neuron Disease

MND is progressive neurodegenerative condition for which there is no cure. One person is diagnosed with MND every two days in Ireland.  The condition affects people in their prime of life, and is associated with progressive loss of all voluntary movements.

Most people with MND die within three to five years of first symptoms. There is an urgent need for new treatments, as over 40 clinical trials have been unsuccessful.

New approaches will include development of markers of different disease subtypes using novel technologies based in imaging and brainwave analysis.

Trinity’s Academic Unit of Neurology

This Unit is part of the School of Medicine, located in the Biomedical Sciences Institute with close links to the Neurology Units at St. James’s, Tallaght and Beaumont Hospitals.

The Unit is led by Professor Orla Hardiman, and  has over 35 researchers working on all aspects of  MND, from genomics through to neuroimaging, psychology, health services research and drug development.

The neuroimaging and signal analysis section explores the exciting interface between clinical neurology, neuroanatomy, computational radiology and neuropathology. This group is led by Professor Peter Bede and Dr Bahman Nassereloslami, and is focused on biomarker development, with a vision to develop viable clinical applications and decipher patterns of disease spread in neurodegeneration.

Using multiple complementary imaging techniques, the group works brain signals using MRI and EEG to understand the network based disturbance in the brain of MND and related disorders. More recently, attention has turned to the development, testing and validation of complex machine-learning algorithms to enable accurate early-stage diagnosis and precise patient classification into prognostic, motor and cognitive phenotypes. The group work closely with international partners across Europe, Canada and the USA and are funded by SFI, HRB, IRC, and the charity Research Motor Neurone.