The University of Newcastle, Australia

Human Brain Mapping

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Professor Michael Breakspear leads the Australian chapter of the Organisation for Human Brain Mapping.

"We're developing diagnostic tests for people with mental illness". Michael says. "It’s called Precision Psychiatry. The goal is genetic testing and brain imaging tests; the genetic tests are not that far away"

I helped to initiate the Australian chapter of the Organisation for Human Brain Mapping. The idea of the chapters is to have meetings in their respective areas that are cheapish to attend because not everyone can travel internationally each year. It makes it more accessible, particularly for Early Career Researchers.

We're looking at people's brain activity when they’re doing things with the aim of using that information to help develop diagnostic tests and predict outcomes. To put it another way, at the moment if you’ve got a mental illness you go and see a doctor, they take a history and based on that they give you a presumptive diagnosis. There are no diagnostic tests and the whole diagnostic system in Psychiatry is based on clusters of symptoms that may not actually be very well clustered. In every other branch of Medicine, a doctor will diagnose you using a series of tests, so we’re trying to develop the same approach in mental health.

At the upcoming conference in Newcastle, we have an international and two national plenary speakers, a lot of opportunities for Early Career Researchers (ECR) to present, we have an ECR networking breakfast, travel bursaries and then we’ve got contributed presentations.

It’s an opportunity to share knowledge, for ECRs to work on their presentation skills, and put it on their CV that they’ve presented at a national conference. Importantly, it’s a rare opportunity to meet international colleagues. The idea is to build a community in Australia of like-minded scientists and to get critical mass as we’ve got a great imaging community in Australia and a lot of infrastructure.

The conference will appeal to people from many disciplines. For Mathematicians and Physicists, on Day 1 there’s a lot of sophisticated computational modelling and magnetic resonance physics; people from Psychiatry will find a lot of cognitive neuroscience; people in Medicine will see talks on mental health and neuro-disorders on Day 2. And they’ll see the scanner too - a lot of people may not realise we’ve got one of Australia’s cutting-edge MR scanners.

The University of Newcastle will host the OHBM Australia - Hunter Neuroimaging Conference

Wednesday 16 October – Friday 18 October

More information, or to register, via this link.

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