Exciting developments in neuroscience in Aotearoa NZ – thanks to YOU!

We all know the research journey can be a long one, but we also know that some things are worth the wait.

Sometimes, our research grants are awarded right at the start of a concept or project, which can lead to bigger and better things when other funders recognise the potential to build on earlier work.

The Health Research Council (HRC) is the Crown agency dedicated to funding and fostering excellent health research. Recently, the HRC announced its latest round of funding for 2023 – and it included further investment in projects that were initially part of Neurological Foundation-funded grants.

This new investment will help researchers to build on their exciting work, giving hope to the one in three Kiwis who are affected by a neurological condition. Read on to learn more about how your support in previous years is helping shape the future of neurological research in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dr Rachel Sumner

Toward Profiling and Treating Neurosteroid Withdrawal in Catamenial Epilepsy

HRC grant $249,985

Dr Sumner and her colleagues have previously received almost $250,000 in funding from research grants through the Neurological Foundation for work on catamenial epilepsy (menstrual-related seizures) which affects 40% of women with epilepsy.

Dr Sumner has been awarded an HRC Emerging Researcher First Grant to develop a patient-centred clinical trial. The team will first complete an observational study comparing women who don’t have epilepsy with those who have catamenial epilepsy, and those who have epilepsy but not catamenial seizures. The aim is to understand how hormonal changes caused by the menstrual cycle are linked to seizures in women with epilepsy.

Improving Lives of Hydrocephalus Patients - First Human Trial of a Novel Device

Professor Simon Malpas

HRC grant $1,199,015

Initially funded by a $158,695 Neurological Foundation project grant in 2012, a novel device to treat hydrocephalus has been awarded an HRC project grant for its first human trial.

Hydrocephalus is a condition resulting in an abnormal build-up of fluid in the brain, resulting in the need for a surgically-inserted tube or ‘shunt’ to drain that fluid.

Patients and their caregivers live with the constant fear that the tube will block, and a simple headache can often mean an urgent trip to the hospital for a scan.

Professor Malpas and his team have developed a sensor to go alongside the drainage tube to detect any rise in pressure. This will enable earlier and more reliable diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening shunt blockage.

A Randomised Controlled Trial of Oral Dexamethasone to Treat Sydenham's Chorea

Dr Hannah Jones

HRC grant $1,438,044

Initially funded by a $28,352 project grant in 2015, paediatric neurologist Dr Jones was also awarded a Neurological Foundation Senior Clinical Research Fellowship of $145,748 in 2021 to investigate autoimmune disorders in children, including Sydenham’s chorea.

Sydenham’s chorea is a disabling disorder of uncontrollable movements and psychiatric symptoms which is seen in children with rheumatic fever. It is is caused by an abnormal immune response to streptococcus infection, and remains endemic in Māori, Pasifika, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. 

Dr Jones and her team have now been awarded an HRC project grant for a clinical trial of dexamethasone in children with Sydenham’s chorea in New Zealand and Australia. This oral steroid is already used to successfully treat other brain disorders, and has the potential to significantly reduce the neurodisability associated with Sydenham’s chorea.

Once again, we want to thank our wonderful family of donors whose ongoing generosity over many years is having a real impact on the one in three Kiwis with a neurological condition.

Help us make a difference today