A Grey Matter is for anyone who has ever wondered how we think, feel, reason and move. The Queensland Brain Institute's neuroscience podcast unlocks the wonders of the brain – the complex and mysterious core of who we are. QBI, at The University of Queensland, works to understand the development, organisation and function of the brain. www.qbi.uq.edu.au
Reflecting on 20 years of brain research excellence
What inspired the creation of the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI)? And how did QBI become one of the leading neuroscience research centres in the world? On our 20th anniversary, QBI’s inaugural Director, Emeritus Professor Perry Bartlett, and its current Executive Director, Professor Pankaj Sah, take us back to 2003, an exciting and optimistic time for Australian neuroscience, when it all began. They share memories and insights into QBI's origins, what and who has shaped our research over the years, and the community’s vital role in inspiring and sustaining QBI.
In this engaging conversation, Pankaj and Perry delve into:
Why and how QBI was created How the Institute grew from three labs to over 30 What’s changed in neuroscience research in 20 years The power of community support What lies ahead for neuroscience
Hijacking the brain’s intrinsic recovery mechanisms to improve stroke therapies
Stroke is one of Australia’s biggest killers, with more than 445,000 Australians living with its impacts. Stroke is common, is not always preventable and can happen to anyone at any age. QBI’s Dr Matilde Balbi and her team combine multiple approaches, including in vivo imaging, brain stimulation and AI-driven, individually tailored recovery paradigms, to study the brain’s recovery from stroke. Their goal is to identify and harness intrinsic neuroprotective mechanisms to improve stroke treatments.
In this engaging conversation, Matilde explores:
What happens in the brain after a stroke
How her team records and tracks neuronal activity Why using animal models is a huge advantage How stroke therapies are evolving with technology Why she focuses her attention on the acute phase of a stroke
Understanding epilepsy's electrical storm in the brain
QBI researcher Dr Nela Durisic is fascinated with how the brain coordinates electrical activity and how faulty electrical communication can lead to brain disorders like epilepsy. By observing the architecture and function of single molecules and their intricate connections, the Durisic lab aims to discover what leads to genetic epilepsy and uncover new ways to treat it. This knowledge may also advance our understanding of other brain disorders, including depression, addiction and autism.
In this conversation, Nela dives into intriguing topics, including:
The triggers and genetic causes of epilepsy The different roles of excitatory and inhibitory neurons What happens in the brain before and during a seizure How microscopy and organoids are advancing her lab’s research Potential new directions for the treatment of genetic epilepsy
What we can see inside our brain cells with super-resolution microscopy
QBI researcher Professor Frederic Meunier is passionate about using highly innovative technology to discover how our brain cells communicate. His lab uses advanced nanoscale imaging (super-resolution microscopy) to observe single molecules in living neurons as they perform their function. In collaboration with mathematicians, the Meunier lab is analysing how small mutations can affect the nanoscale dynamics of single proteins and their function to help us understand the origins of brain disorders and diseases.
In this conversation, Fred traverses far-ranging topics, including:
Our brain’s chaotic inner cellular environment How imaging technology is evolving to accelerate discoveries Why video games led to a new spatiotemporal data analysis approach What Botox can teach us about the function of the synapse between two brain cells Why pharmaceutical companies are starting to invest in single molecule imaging
In the fight to find a cure for motor neurone disease
Boots, beanies and all, QBI researcher Dr Adam Walker is in the fight to find a cure for motor neurone disease (MND). His team uses genetic editing techniques and rapidly advancing technology to study what’s happening at the early onset of disease. By understanding the biological processes that cause MND, they hope to design new therapies that prevent or halt its progression.
In this inspiring conversation, Adam explores:
How the brain initiates movement Why expensive muesli can help explain MND The protein TDP-43 and its role in the death of motor neurons The exciting potential for targeted MND therapeutics Philanthropy’s vital role in blue sky MND research
How does a teenager’s brain assess risk in decision-making?
How do we make choices? And what happens in our brain when we do? Cognitive Neuroscientist Professor Jason Mattingley and his team study human brain activity and structure and how people pay attention, prioritise information and decide. With adolescence being a time of great change, the team is fascinated with how young people assess risk and develop an understanding of what’s at stake. It’s one of several studies the team conducts to understand the complex brain processes that give rise to human behaviour.
In this engaging conversation, Jason delves into:
Why it’s important to study the decision-making of healthy teenagers How decision-making changes when you’re stressed and as you age The science behind following your gut instinct Whether changing your mind is a good thing What happens when there is no ‘right’ answer?