March 2012 Newsletter of the CRC for Mental Health 
CRC for Mental Health
With the first round of annual reporting to the Federal Government now completed, it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our early successes. A few highlights stand out for the 2011/12 year:
  • Several potential biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease have been identified through testing of the AIBL cohort. While these are early results, they show the importance of the AIBL cohort in progressing Alzheimer's research in Australia. Project teams are now working towards validating these results.
  • The establishment of cohorts and project methodology in the Parkinson's, schizophrenia and mood disorders projects means the CRC is now well placed to continue this important work in a rigorous and effective manner.
  • Two PhD students have commenced, Natalie Thomas (University of Melbourne, Project: Muscarinic receptors and the pathophysiology of schizoprenhia: understanding the role of structure and function) and Rhona Creegan (Edith Cowan University, Project: Identification of lipid biomarkers in Alzheimer's disease)
  • CRC researchers have published 38 journal articles, with a further 15 in press or accepted. See the full list of articles.
The key factor that separates the CRC from other research initiatives in mental health and neuroscience is the scale of collaboration and the involvement of industry within our research. All of our research projects involve more than one participant organisation, and eleven of these feature at least one end-user participant. The organisation and operation of the CRC for Mental Health reflect the way that biomedical research in Australia must change to address the really complex and difficult problems posed by diseases such as mental illnesses. Small research teams competing against other small teams elsewhere in the world will continue to generate exciting findings regarding single biological pathways or cellular mechanisms. However, developing an integrated understanding of complex biological systems and the causes of their dysfunction, and translating this understanding into new therapies and practices, will require large scale cooperation and collaboration between a diversity of organisations.

The first papers from the ENCODE project, published recently in Nature with over 400 named authors on the lead paper, exemplify the power of the new "consortium science". Consortium science is not easy - learning to work productively within a large team on a long term project while maintaining one's identity as an individual researcher and progressing one's career in a metric-dominated professional environment can be particularly challenging for people. The CRC for Mental Health is committed to develop the capabilities and attitudes required to conduct excellent large-scale research, whose outcomes are translated effectively into benefits for the community, while at the same time allowing individuals to flourish and pursue rewarding careers.

The CRC's first annual research conference will be held 26 - 27 November at the Melbourne Brain Centre. We strongly encourage all personnel working on CRC projects to attend, learn more about the CRC's overall programs and explore opportunities for collaboration between projects and with our industry participants.


Not just one thing - Art, science and schizophrenia 

It's just one week until our first public event. Join the CRC for Mental Health on 10 and 12 October for free events held at The Dax Centre, part of the Melbourne Brain Centre building, Parkville. "Not just one thing - art, science and schizophrenia" will cover the history of schizophrenia, exploring the illness through art, story-telling, science and personal perspectives. 

Facilitated by Lynne Malcolm, from ABC Radio National's "All in the Mind", the events will feature a panel of experts including:
  • Professor Brian Dean (CRC for Mental Health) 
  • Emma Last (The Dax Centre)
  • Professor Jayashri Kulkarni (The Alfred Hospital)
The events are free and all are welcome to attend. This Unlocking Australia's potential initiative is supported by the Australian Government as part of Inspiring Australia. The events are part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Image kindly supplied by Graeme Doyle, Untitled piece, undated, digital print reworked with ink and correction fluid on paper. Part of the Dax Centre collection.

Hall and Prior wins Better Practice Award

Our congratulations go to CRC Participant Hall & Prior, whose Kensington Park Aged Care Home received a Better Practice Award. The awards recognise quality improvement in aged care, recognising the industry's high achievers. Hall & Prior's winning project, 'Innovative approaches to improve behaviour management of residents with dementia', aimed to identify the relationship between pain and sleep that occurs with behavioural changes and aggressive episodes. The project assisted Kensington Park staff to understand the cause of the episodes and manage the underlying symptoms before they resulted in behavioural incidents. From this investigation, appropriate holistic strategies were developed and implemented to address the underlying cause of the aggressive episodes. More information about the project.

Science and Policy
The CRC has provided support for our scientists to attend policy-focused professional development activities. Deputy CSO A/Prof Simon Laws attended the recent Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank, "Australia's population: shaping a vision for our future",  hosted by the Australian Academy of Science, Adelaide 26 - 27 July. The event brought together researchers to engage in thinking about novel applications of existing science and technology and identify gaps in knowledge that might be addressed when applying science to a particular issue.

"Australia's population is ageing and this shift in demographics presents new challenges, particularly in how we deal with the increasing impact of illnesses like Alzheimer's disease," said A/Prof Laws. "Taking part in the Think Tank provided an eye-opening experience in the way different disciplines view where the nation is heading, who we will be in the future and how we will live together in it. The diverse nature of participants provided some real insights into developing ideas that can be incorporated into policies for our future."

Dr Olivia Dean (Barwon Health), Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith (ECU) and Dr Andrea Wilson (ECU) attended the early-mid career forum, hosted by the Australian Academy of Science called "Science Pathways 2012: Getting Science on the National Agenda", Canberra, 24 - 25 September 2012. The forum aimed to engage early-mid career researchers from around Australia to advise the academy on key issues to help inform policy recommendations to government.

Above: 2012 Australian Academy of Sciences Theo Murphy think tank attendees.

Copyright © 2012 CRC for Mental Health, All rights reserved.