Research involving brain stimulation to improve memory in
people with dementia is one of several University of Otago
projects boosted by more than $330,000 in grants from the
Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.
A research team led by Prof Neil McNaughton, of the Otago
psychology department, received a $95,243 grant in the
foundation's latest national grant round, totalling more than
$800,000, which was announced last week.
Memory "dysfunction" can arise through brain disorders
ranging from traumatic brain injuries, such as in some
motorcycle accidents, to dementia.
Prof McNaughton was "very pleased" to gain the grant and said
the foundation did an "excellent job" in funding such
This was the third grant he had received from the foundation
for this work, including an initial grant to start the
This had resulted in a publication in the journal Hippocampus
The research involved a technique which was internationally
distinctive in "putting a rhythm back in to the brain"
through deep electrical stimulation, and this had attracted
overseas interest, he said.
In the brain, the hippocampus and surrounding cortex were
"implicated in disorders of memory and show slow rhythmic
activity, known as theta", foundation officials said.
Prof McNaughton's team had recently shown that deep brain
stimulation reinstated theta activity and could repair memory
deficits in models of dementia.
There was evidence that such stimulation also ameliorated the
effects of traumatic brain injury, officials said.
Prof Paul Smith, of the Otago pharmacology and toxicology
department, has also received a grant, of $132,306, to pursue
research involving a possible novel drug treatment for
Foundation officials said chronic tinnitus was a debilitating
condition affecting about 10% of the population.
There were very limited drug treatment options, mainly due to
a lack of systematic, well-controlled preclinical drug
studies and a lack of understanding of the condition's
It had been suggested that tinnitus was generated in the
brain by the hyperactivity of brain cells involved in
This research project would investigate a novel drug, which
could reduce this brain cell activity, in a model of
Dr Toni Pitcher, of the Otago University Christchurch campus,
has received a $78,143 grant to explore the prevalence of
Parkinson's disease in New Zealand and related medication
Parkinson's disease was a neurodegenerative disease which
caused disabling motor disturbances, involving movement, and
other disturbances, but there was a lack of information about
the disease's impact in this country.
Other Otago University grants: Associate Prof Cynthia
Darlington, Otago pharmacology and toxicology department,
$9052; Dr Patries Herst, Malaghan Institute of Medical
Research and Otago's Wellington campus, $8550; Dr Annemarei
Ranta, MidCentral Health/Otago University, $10,000.