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Research

The Herston Imaging Research Facility (HIRF) provides researchers with access to world-class imaging scanners that exceed the capabilities of traditional machines. The scanners will be used to conduct studies that aim to revolutionise our understanding and treatment of diseases and conditions. Research at HIRF covers a broad spectrum of research interests. Some key areas of research are: ageing and dementia, mental illness, early brain development and oncology

Ageing and Dementia

Age-related dementia has a severe impact on the life expectancy of many older Australians. HIRF researchers will use novel molecular imaging technology to obtain a more comprehensvie understanding of how this disease progresses and identify preventative measures. Neuroimaging technology will also help researchers explore the mechanisms driving premature brain ageing and identify novel biomarkers for neuropathy, brain injury and abnormal brain development. The MRI and PET imaging technology will additionally be used to provide new insights regarding dementia and help identify high-risk candidates for Alzheimer’s disease.

Mental Illness

Depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses significantly impact on thousands of Australians every year. Researchers will use advanced neuroimaging and complex dynamic modeling to probe the neural correlates of mood disorders, schizophrenia and autism. The advanced neuroimaging scanners will provide detailed information about how the brain is wired and help determine the effectiveness of treatments.

Neuroimaging and behavioural data will also be used to understand the processes that occur in the brain during episodes of mental illness such as schizophrenia and depression. Using non-invasive MRI techniques, researchers will improve their understanding of how patients progress from being from being at risk, through to the development of mental illness and psychotic episodes.

Early Brain Development

Advanced HIRF scanners will enable researchers to use non-invasive MRI and connectomics to explore the clinical impacts of brain injury on early neurodevelopment.

Oncology

Cancer is a leading cause of death in Australia and PET tracers (the compounds used to track the activities within a tumour or another part of the body) are vital in understanding and treating this disease.

HIRF researchers will develop and test new PET tracers to improve early detection and diagnosis, and identify more accurate image-guided therapy for patients. It is hoped this research will also uncover new information about cancer biology and improve care for patients with brain, breast, head, neck, ovarian and prostate cancers.

The advanced imaging equipment will more accurately identify the activities within tumours and help researchers and clinicians develop more targeted treatments, including lower doses of radiation, where appropriate. This research has the potential to reduce the long-term, negative health impacts of radiation for paediatric patients.