22 May 2015

Smart minds on keeping brains healthy

1:11 pm on 22 May 2015

A new national brain research initiative is being launched today in Auckland and Dunedin.

X-ray of a human skull, brain and spine

Photo: 123rf

Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ), a government-funded Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), aims to help people age well with healthy brains.

The centre is a collaboration between the University of Auckland and the University of Otago, and the expanded brain trust's members hope a joint approach will speed up research.

BRNZ co-director Professor Cliff Abraham, from the University of Otago, believed the team would develop a better understanding of ageing-related neurological disorders, and improve life-long brain health for all New Zealanders.

More than 60 researchers will work together as part of the initiative, which Professor Abraham described as a truly nationwide approach.

"We've been working together for a long time and it's a tribute, I think, to the two host universities that they've been able to come together and - for the first time - jointly host a national Centre of Research Excellence."

Ageing-related disorders such as strokes, dementia and Parkinson's disease currently affect one in five New Zealanders aged over 65 years, the centre said in a statement.

It said that could grow to one in four older New Zealanders by 2036.

Dementia cost New Zealand $955 million in 2011, while strokes and traumatic brain injury cost the country more than $250 million a year.

The CoRE programme funds collaborative research which has a national strategic focus.

Ten centres in the programme have funding until 2020 and two others have funding until the end of this year.

Other relatively new centres in the programme include the Bio-Protection Research Centre (Lincoln University - pest control), the Riddet Institute (Massey University - food), QuakeCore (University of Canterbury - quake resilience) and Nga Pae o te Maramatanga (University of Auckland - Maori research).

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