Our Research

We're interested in how our life experiences change our brains

We use a variety of human neuroimaging methods to understand neural plasticity across the adult lifespan. We experts in applying multimodal neuroimaging using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and simultaneous MRI-PET (magnetic resonance imaging-positron emission tomography) to study the human brain. We work closely with our colleagues at Monash Biomedical Imaging to apply innovative neuroimaging methods to understand individual differences in cognition.

We have two primary research streams.

Simultaneous MRI-PET and cognitive reserve across the adult lifespan

We've spent a number of years developing high temporal-resolution simultaneous BOLD-fMRI/FDG-fPET (blood oxygenation level dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging, [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography) methods. We are now applying these methods to understand the relationship between cognition, functional and metabolic connectivity across the adult lifespan. We're interested in whether changes in metabolic connectivity is a potential early indicator of age-related cognitive decline and dementia.

We are releasing our MR-PET datasets on the OpenNeuro platform (see Data). We've also published a Journal of Visualized Experiments video methods article detailing the BOLD-fMRI/FDG-fPET acquisition approach:

The neuroscience of parenthood

Becoming a parent is a major transition period in a person’s life. Pregnancy and the post-partum period are associated with dramatic changes in hormones, body size and bodily functions. Being a parent also dramatically increases the complexity of the person’s life – the parent needs to quickly adapt from a person primarily focused on their own wants, needs, and survival; to ensuring the survival and happiness of their children. This environmental complexity is long-lasting and rapidly changing – nappies, feeding and sleep schedules are soon swapped for school lunches and soccer practice.

Surprisingly, very little is known about how this major life milestone changes the brain. While a lot is known about how the brain responds to infant-centric stimuli (e.g., baby cries, faces), not a lot is known about how the parent’s brain changes. We’re interested in both acute (i.e., postpartum) and permanent changes in the brain that occur when one becomes a parent. We’ve shown that parenthood confers resilience to the ageing process, and some of the strange sensations of pregnancy (e.g., ‘foetal kicks’) are experienced for many years after the end of the pregnancy. We’re exploring the generalised cognitive, psychosocial, and neural changes associated with parenthood across sexes, genders and family structures.