DiscoverA Grey Matter
A Grey Matter
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A Grey Matter

Author: Queensland Brain Institute

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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.
69 Episodes
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 
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  
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  
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 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?  
Dr Nathalie Dehorter and her team study interneurons (the neurons controlling the excitation-inhibition balance in the central nervous system) during brain development and in disorders like autism, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. Nathalie aims to identify early changes in neuronal activity and connectivity that give rise to impairment in the adult brain. She hopes that a better understanding of these processes may, one day, lead to new therapies tailored for a person’s age and gender.    In this brief conversation, Nathalie explains:    What mouse models of autism can teach us about the human condition How early brain changes may lead to autism  The mechanisms common to autism and schizophrenia When the team hopes to move into clinical trials  Why she chose QBI as her research home 
Professor Peter Nestor is a clinician-researcher interested in memory and cognition. As a doctor, he diagnoses people living with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's. By studying patients, he hopes to enhance our understanding of the brain areas most vulnerable to neurodegeneration to improve diagnosis and therapies. In this fascinating conversation, Peter delves into:Why we don't remember every moment of our livesThe difference between episodic and semantic memoryWhat factors make us remember things How our memory changes as we ageWhy it's important to enjoy every day
Exercise has many benefits for our bodies, including our brains. So, can we replicate the positive effects of exercise to boost new neurons in the adult brain? Dr Tara Walker thinks so and has dedicated her research career to discovering how. Tara was one of the first researchers recruited to QBI when it opened in 2003. She swapped plant biotechnology for neurogenesis research, and it has taken her to Germany and back to QBI (eight years later) to run her own lab.   In this conversation, Tara explains:     The strongest way to generate new neurons in the adult brain What mice have taught us about the benefits of running Selenium as a potential stroke therapy Her international collaboration related to Alzheimer’s disease The advantages of being at an institute dedicated to the brain 
QBI researcher Dr Margaret Moore discusses the fascinating and dynamic process of paying attention. Amidst the sensory overload around us, the brain takes as many shortcuts as possible to process information. To save energy, the brain efficiently chooses to process only what it expects is most helpful, most relevant, and most important to us. It also relies on predictions of what it expects to see, based on past experiences. When this expectation differs from what we actually see, a prediction error occurs, and the brain builds a new model of reality.In this conversation, Margaret explores:  The process of paying attentionPredictive attention and why the brain needs to take short cuts to save energyHow we perceive differences in what we expect to see and what we actually seeHer past research on visual spatial neglect in stroke patientsHer current research on healthy brains to understand what is happening in the brain when we pay attentionThe need to approach our understanding of the brain from both a clinical and neuroscience perspective 
QBI researcher Professor Tim Bredy believes his team are on the verge of something big. They are studying the role of ribonucleic acid (RNA), which is present in all living things, including viruses. RNA is structurally like DNA but it is involved in multiple functions, including brain development, learning and memory.   In this conversation, Tim explores:   RNA’s functions in our body, including in our brain His team’s exciting discovery of a circular RNA  The vast potential of emerging RNA therapies Embracing third-generation sequencing to accelerate discoveries How fundamental science is helping to advance RNA therapeutics 
Ever wondered what’s happening in your brain while you sleep and why you need sleep?   QBI researchers Professor Bruno van Swinderen and Dr Sally Staton approach sleep from different ends of the scientific spectrum, but both are fascinated by how sleep helps us learn and respond to the world.   In this conversation, they delve into thought-provoking topics like:   how sleep impacts a child’s brain development the different functions of sleep the value of REM sleep why study sleep in fruit flies  how consciousness may have evolved  
This episode features an insightful conversation between Sallyanne Atkinson AO, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane and current member of the QBI advisory, and Professor Emeritus Perry Bartlett AO, founding Director of the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) .You'll hear about the origins of the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research (CJCADR), the power of philanthropy and some of the research that’s been nurtured at the Centre over the past decade. 
You probably have heard of a pacemaker – a small device which is implanted in the chest to help control the heartbeat for people living with heart conditions. But did you know similar technology is being used to treat several brain disorders?Today we are joined by Professor Peter Silburn AM, neurologist, researcher and pioneer in deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS technology delivers a continuous electrical impulse to targeted regions of the brain to treat many disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and obsessive compulsion disorder (OCD).
In recent years, we’ve seen a growing number of sportspeople speak out about their experiences of head injuries, and concussions are forcing more and more athletes to take a break from or cut short their sporting careers.  And research on the brains of former athletes is raising awareness of the long-term neurological damage that can be caused by repeated, apparently minor knocks to the head.  Associate Professor  Fatima Nasrallah is currently spearheading a ground-breaking study here at the Queensland Brain Institute, investigating the long-term effects of concussion on the brain.  
People living with dementia often have disturbed sleep – even years prior to experiencing any other symptoms.  Unfortunately, as is the case with many risk factors, we don’t know whether this is a cause or a symptom, and it could in fact be both.  Professor Elizabeth Coulson specialises in dementia research here at the Queensland Brain Institute and she’s heading up a team who are looking into the connection between sleep apnoea and dementia risks. 
The development of the brain is a fascinating process, with complex brain connections being made rapidly as a foetus grows inside its mother’s womb.Darryl Eyles, Professor of neurobiology, is studying how known risk factors for certain mental disorders can change the way the brain develops.In this episode we explore how the developing brain can adapt to risk factors for mental health disorders and why sometimes it can’t compensate.
How can you study the human brain at the cell level, when you can't get inside to see these tiny processes in action? Well, you build your own brain in a dish of course! Organoids, or mini brains, are an exciting new area of neuroscience an have many applications, including personalised medicine. We talk to Professor Enrst Wolvetang, who's using this cutting-edge research to understand how brains are made.
The conscious brain

The conscious brain


In this episode, we examine consciousness – what is it, when does it begin, and how might sleep and dreams be the key to answering these questions. Professor Bruno van Swinderen sheds more light on this fascinating topic.
Queensland Chief Scientist, Professor Hugh Possingham and Queensland Brain Institute Director, Professor Pankaj Sah talk about the lessons we can learn from conservation science and neuroscience, how to influence decision-makers, and why maths is so important!CREDITSProduced,  hosted and edited by Carolyn Barry
When we pay attention to something, our minds are selectively concentrating on a discrete piece of information, while choosing to ignore other perceivable elements. Dr Anthony Harris is an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellow at the Queensland Brain Institute and an expert on human attention. He discusses what goes on in the brain when we are giving something our full attention, and breaks down whether or not multitasking is a myth.
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