Our aim is to innovate and improve care for patients with brain disorders
Conditions which affect the brain, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, often require long-term monitoring and treatment. This theme brings together expertise from many different areas of healthcare and basic science to develop new ways to monitor, diagnose and treat patients with brain disorders.
Our work aims to:
1 Develop smart remote monitoring to detect changes so doctors can intervene early
Expertise for brain disorders is often housed within hospitals and access to expert advice is not always easy to obtain. We’re developing techniques that allow experts to be alerted when a patient’s condition is changing in the community. This might occur because of changes in the disorder, or because of altered mood, sleep, motivation and cognitive function, all of which impact upon people’s lives.
2 Make diagnoses earlier so treatments can start sooner
Many brain disorders start years before they become apparent either to patients or doctors. In certain conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease it might be possible to detect signs of the condition at an earlier stage. We’re investing in research that aims to spot such changes and bring diagnosis forward to improve quality of life at the earliest stages of the disorder.
3 Detect those at greatest risk so more intensive treatment can be directed to them
People differ in terms of how a neurological disorder affects them. Some have far worse outcomes than others. Our research aims to work out whether we can predict who is at greatest risk among patients with multiple sclerosis, brain tumours, neuropathic pain and Parkinson’s disease, so that we can intensify treatments for those individuals.
4 Introduce new treatments
We’re developing new treatments for several brain disorders. These include brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease and stem cells for neurodegenerative condition, screening established drugs for new uses in multiple sclerosis and behavioural training to improve hearing function in patients with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
The Oxford BRC Theme Lead for Neurological conditions, Prof Masud Husain, gave a public talk in March 2018 with Prof Clare Mackay, Theme Lead for Older Adults and dementia at the NIHR Oxford Health BRC; the subject was ‘New developments in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s research’. They looked at how cutting edge research in oxford was increasing our knowledge of the mechanisms causing these degenerative disorders; offering the prospect of earlier diagnosis and supporting the development of potential new therapies to slow the progression of these conditions.
At a recent patient open day at the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, doctors give an overview of some of the research currently being carried out into the disease.
In the video below, Heidi Johansen-Berg, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, gives an update on research into the brain.
Our brains adapt whenever we learn a new skill, such as juggling. Our brains also adapt after damage such as stroke. Professor Johansen-Berg shows how brain imaging allows us to watch this brain remodelling, reorganisation and rewiring. She also discusses new developments in brain stimulation that raise exciting opportunities for accelerating learning and enhancing recovery.