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Research started on complexity of brain circuits

15 October, 2002

A researcher from the University of Queensland in Brisbane has begun a study of the brain that could impact on the study of conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and dementia as well as the brain’s recuperative ability following injury.

Dr Guy Elston has been awarded The James S McDonnell Foundation 'Bridging Brain Mind and Behaviour' Research Grant worth around A$920,000 to assist with the funding of his neuroscience research into how differences in the complexity of brain circuits and in different species, influence cognitive abilities.

"The cells in our prefrontal cortex, the site generally believed to initiate and modulate our thought processes, appear to be the most complex in our brains. Furthermore, pyramidal cells in our prefrontal cortex are much more complex than those of other primates studied so far" he said.

Dr Elston, who is based at the University's Vision, Touch and Hearing Research Centre at the School of Biomedical Sciences said his findings had wide-ranging consequences for the medical world as well as understanding the evolution of thinking, decision-making and other cognitive processes.

His research follows that of Professor Santiago Ramón y Cajal who, after a lifetime of investigations, concluded that the brain was not built of the same repeated circuit.

"I am now using these same methodologies and systematic approach to study dementia associated with Down syndrome and epilepsy. I also hope to extend my findings to the study of the brain's recuperative ability following peripheral injury such as a limb-loss, retinal detachment or stroke" he said.

"As I see it, the immediate challenge is to convince many of my colleagues that what I have reported is in actual fact the case" he said.