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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Summer 2023

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RESEARCH RESEARCH IN FOCUS We thought we would start the New Year with a look at a few MSWA funded projects across a variety of Western Australian institutions including Perron Institute, ECU, and Curtin University. Check out the four projects we are highlighting in this edition of Bulletin. EDITH COWAN UNIVERSITY SPIN Research Program – Savour CURTIN UNIVERSITY Discoveries around diet in MS PERRON INSTITUTE Demyelinating Diseases Many people with MS turn to the Led by Group Director, Clinical Professor Allan Kermode Professor Joanne Dickson Improving and maintaining quality of life is the main objective of Edith Cowan University’s MSWA funded SPIN (Systematic Profiling in Neurological Conditions) Research Program, with mental health being a major focus. Savour is a novel, imagery-based technique that uses positive memories to promote improvements in mental well-being. Individualised guided imagery encourages participants to revisit and savour a recent positive memory. Participants then project positive outlooks for events in the future and savour the anticipated positive emotions elicited. Professor Joanne Dickson at ECU says, “Affective savouring techniques like Savour have been shown to increase hope and happiness in people living with mental health conditions such as psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. Imagery-based interventions have been shown to improve mood and quality of life, and reduce fatigue in MS.” We are currently completing the final assessments of an initial trial and planning the next steps for the full trial, which will include people with all neurological conditions and their carers. To find out more contact or keep an eye out for updates in MSWA’s Vitality Newsletter. internet for advice on diet, but navigating the information can be confusing and stressful. As Associate Professor Lucinda Black, team leader of the MS Nutrition Education Program at Curtin University, has identified “people with MS are so interested in diet and motivated to make healthy changes. Helping them make the right, evidence-based food choices is a privilege.” Their vision is to remove the confusion about diet and promote healthy eating among people with MS – something Lucinda loves doing and loves about her job. MSWA’s support of the MS Nutrition Education Program over the past seven years has enabled Associate Professor Lucinda Black and her team to build much needed research capacity for WA. Over the years, the team has been able to expand on four interconnected pillars of research: 1. Lived experience (talking to people with MS and health professionals about food, nutrition and special diets); 2. Epidemiology (testing whether diet is linked to MS onset and progression using studies from around the world); 3. Nutrition education (co-designing nutrition resources and education programs with people with MS); 4. Clinical trials (developing trials to help improve diet quality among people with MS). Associate Professor Lucinda Black The team has already shown links between diet and MS onset, including a beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet, lower ultraprocessed food intake and higher fish consumption. They are now testing these dietary patterns and foods with disease progression to determine their potential benefits, a step that is hugely exciting. As one participant commented about the research, “what you're doing right now is vital to any MS person, and I’m just one person. I just feel really grateful that you cared enough to take me on”. The team recently developed a six-week online nutrition education program, co-designed with people with MS and tested with 70 participants. Preliminary results show that the program helps to improve food choices and gives people a better understanding about food and nutrition. The feedback will help improve the program, which will run as a larger study in the future. “When people with MS tell us we are making a difference, I know we're on the right track,” Lucinda said. Anyone interested in finding out more about getting involved in the research program, please contact: This research team including Dr Marzena Fabis-Pedrini, Dr. Belinda Kaskow and Dr. Stephanie Trend is involved in a number of research projects to investigate the clinical profile of different subgroups of Western Australian patients with MS, which is a demyelinating disease. Specifically, under their banner of MRI and genetic research, the team are: / Examining antibodies in Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) / Conducting brain and serum neurofilament light analysis in people with benign and non-benign MS PERRON INSTITUTE Brain Plasticity Led by Associate Professor Jenny Rodger Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Associate Professor Rodger and her research team aim to understand brain plasticity and how to harness it, thereby producing new and effective treatments for patients with a wide range of neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions including mental illness. A key focus of the team is research into the neuroplasticity mechanisms that are specific to brain development, with the goal of supporting healthy brain function throughout life. / Collecting clinical samples over time / Investigating biomarkers in MS / Looking at genetic determinants through immunophenotyping / Conducting quantitative MRI studies including building an MRI library, clinical comparisons, collaborative studies, walking rehabilitation through music, and the development of exercise guidelines for MS Additional research is being conducted in cellular immunology, B-cell regulation and T-cell interaction, post-mortem single-cell sequencing from brain tissues and antigen discovery to identify the cause of MS. As well as pursuing innovative and cutting-edge research into neuroplasticity, this team is also designing evidence-based treatment protocols for human clinical trials using transcranial magnetic stimulation for the rehabilitation of stroke, MS and more. Their research also explores the biological basis of neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety, and investigates treatments such as non-invasive stimulation and novel therapeutics. Clinical Professor Allan Kermode Associate Professor Jenny Rodger The hope remains to confirm the benefit of treatments, including transcranial magnetic stimulation, that build new pathways and increase repair in the brain through non-invasive interventions which complement standard rehabilitation therapies and improve outcomes. 6 7