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Australia has a strong sporting culture. We love our sport:  we watch our kids grow up playing it on the weekends, and our professional athletes are household names. The nature of contact sports means that head knocks are sometimes unavoidable. But changing the fundamental rules of these sports isn’t the only way to make them safer. Through research, we can improve the diagnosis and management of concussive episodes. Finding a suitable biomarker to test for concussion will enable rapid diagnosis and reduce the risk of repeated head injury. And imaging technology is helping us understand how concussion affects the brain. Longitudinal studies to track brain changes have never been undertaken before, and are the missing piece of the concussion puzzle. In the long-term, they are critical to understanding the lasting consequences of head injury, and will enable us to intervene early and prevent or reduce lasting damage. Through research, we can begin to tackle some of concussion’s unanswered questions.

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Special thanks to Rate City and the Maclean family for kicking off the campaign with generous donations.

About QBI

The Queensland Brain Institute is a world-leading neuroscience research centre, based at The University of Queensland.

QBI is home to more than 450 staff and students who are dedicated to understanding how the brain works, how it can be repaired, and how we can harness its full potential. 

One-third of the burden of disease in Australia is caused by brain and mental health disorders, including conditions caused by illness, genetics, or traumatic injury.  QBI scientists work tirelessly to better understand the brain, and develop new treatments for disorders including dementia, stroke, intellectual and learning disabilities, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

QBI is keen to consolidate this depth of experience to start a dedicated concussion research centre. 

Help us: together we can understand more about concussion, improve concussion management techniques and, importantly, develop diagnostic and preventative tools as well as long-term treatment.

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QBI concussion research team 

Dr Fatima Nasrallah, MAIC Senior Research Fellow, uses the full spectrum of imaging technologies to advance our understanding of what is going on inside the brain after a concussion. Dr Nasrallah uses fMRI and other imaging techniques to study what happens to the brain in the immediate aftermath of a concussion, as well as in the following weeks and months. Her work hopes to study brain changes and the effects of different treatments and interventions to reduce long-term damage from concussion.

Specifically, she has been examining brain networks – different patterns of activity associated with different brain functions. Certain networks in the brain are engaged during different activities, and Dr Nasrallah’s research has shown that the ‘default mode’ network is disrupted by concussion injuries.

Professor David Reutens, Director of the Centre for Advanced Imaging at The University of Queensland, uses MRI diffusion imaging to reveal some of the subtle damage of concussion. Following a concussion, disruptions or damage to the white matter of the brain may affect connectivity and impair brain function. Neurons – brain cells – normally fire together in coordinated networks, but instead become out of sync.

Professor Jürgen Götz, Director of the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research, and his team recently made the breakthrough discovery that non-invasive ultrasound can be used to temporarily open the impermeable blood-brain barrier. This opening is thought to activate microglia cells, which clean up deposits of toxic proteins. This research, while targeted as a treatment for Alzheimer’s research, is likely to have significant relevance to treating some of concussion’s long-term consequences.

Associate Professor Terry Coyne is a neurosurgeon with specialist skills in brain and spinal injuries. He has a particular interest in concussion and is a member of  Australian Athletes’ Alliance Concussion Advisory Board and the AFL Concussion Advisory Board.

Professor Mike O’Sullivan holds a joint appointment as a Professor of Neuroscience at QBI and as Director of the Mater (clinical) Centre for Neuroscience. Professor O'Sullivan is an eminent neurologist with extensive clinical research experience. Professor O’Sullivan has research interests in stroke, dementia and memory, and applies sophisticated imaging to dissect cognitive and memory networks in the brain. He will play a leading role in QBI’s concussion research program and will be integral in establishing the clinical interface between QBI clinicians, researchers, and the wider community.

About The Brain Series: Concussion 

The Brain Series: Concussion was produced by the Queensland Brain Institute in partnership with the Australian Athletes' Alliance. The AAA is the peak body for Australia’s elite professional athletes.   

Publisher: Professor Pankaj Sah

Editor: Karen McGhee

Online Editor: Donna Lu

Writers: Donna Lu, Dr Alan Woodruff, Bianca Nogrady

Additional Editorial Support: Carolyn Barry

Clinial Editor: Associate Professor Terry Coyne

Designer: Ivan Chow

Photography: Dr Nick Valmas, Marnie McLaren 

Illustrations: Dr Levent Efe, Dr Nick Valmas

Video Production: Jim Maloney, Tama Enright

Marketing and Communications: Mikaeli Costello, Kirsten MacGregor, Andrea Markey

Publishing ConsultantKylie Ahern

Supported by: the Australian Athletes' Alliance, representing – 

With thanks to: Rebecca Appleton, Beatrice Bowen, Caroline Chalmers, Richard Chalmers, Brooke Connell, David Croft, Clare Fox, Sarah Grant, Lucy Gundelach, Amanda Haack, Lyndsey Henderson, Liza Jane Loch, Hamish Maclean, Marcus Maclean, Jeff Maclean, Stephanie Maynes, Terry McCoy, Marnie McLaren, Simon O'Brien, Jonathon Stewart, Zachary Tan, Alexis Wallace, Kelly Wilkes, Sally-Ann Williams, Jeremy Willink