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Parkinson’s Diseases And Brain Disorders

Monday, 23 May 2005

Institute Opens For Research Into Parkinson’s Diseases And Brain Disorders.

A monitor to signal when a driver is at risk of falling asleep, and a machine to test whether someone is capable of driving safely after suffering a brain injury, stroke or Parkinson’s Disease, are two products being developed at the new Van der Veer Institute in Christchurch.

The Institute, the largest research and clinical unit in the country devoted to neurological and brain disorders will be officially opened at 4.30pm on Tuesday May 24 by the Mayor of Christchurch, Garry Moore. One in 500 people have Parkinson’s Disease (800 people in Canterbury alone), while brain disorders have a major effect on people’s ability to do simple tasks around the home and drive safely.

The Van der Veer Institute was made possible through a $1.5 million dollar bequest in 2002 to the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation (CMRF) by the late Cas Van der Veer.

“The Institute represents a significant research and clinical partnership between the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago’s Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Canterbury DHB and the CMRF,” says Chair of the Board Mr John Bayley.

The CMRF and others in the partnership decided that the bequest’s aims would be best served by establishing an outpatient clinic for Parkinson’s and setting up a research facility close to the School of Medicine and Christchurch Hospital. Subsequently the Christchurch Brain Research Group proposed that the Institute also include research into normal and abnormal aspects of the brain.

The Institute now has 119 members with 75 researchers/collaborators, of whom 22 are based at the Institute itself.

“The great strength of this arrangement is the same site provision of research facilities, and specialist clinics for patients with Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders, “ says John Bayley.

“Its main activities are expanding our understanding of the brain and its disorders, improved investigation procedures for diagnosis and treatment, and the development of innovative technology and machines.”

CMRF director Guy Johnson says the next step is investment in a MRI scanner. “We need access to low cost brain scans to ensure the Institute’s reputation as an international research facility,” he says.

Neurologist Professor Tim Anderson is leading other research projects looking at eye movements to determine the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, and altering arm and leg movements through lab-based training systems. Dr Maggie Lee Huckabee is treating and researching serious swallowing disorders which afflict many people following a stroke or other neurological conditions.

The Van de Veer Institute is located at 16 St Asaph Street ( near Hagley Park) and the opening will take place at 4.30pm on Tuesday May 24.


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