Congratulations to Tara Diviney; “Global Winner” in Undergraduate Awards

Congratulations to Tara Diviney; “Global Winner” in Undergraduate Awards

Tara Diviney, a recent graduate of NUI Galway’s BSc in Biomedical Science, has been awarded “Global Winner” in the Medical Sciences category of the 2019 Global Undergraduate Awards.

Tara won the Medical Sciences category on the basis of her final year research project on neurobiological mechanisms associated with multiple sclerosis which was supervised by Galway Neuroscience Centre Director, Dr Una Fitzgerald, with additional support provided by her co-supervisors, Dr Jill McMahon and BrainMatTrain Marie Curie Fellow, Enrico Bagnoli.

Since completing her BSc at NUI Galway, Tara has continued on to the Wellcome Trust Doctoral Programme in Neuroscience at the University of Oxford where she will undertake her PhD.

The Global Undergraduate Awards is the world’s leading undergraduate awards programme which recognises top undergraduate work, shares this work with a global audience and connects students across cultures and disciplines.

Dr Áine Kelly begins her term as NSI President

Dr Áine Kelly begins her term as NSI President

Welcome note from Dr Áine Kelly, TCD, who begins her term as NSI President

“I am honoured and delighted to begin my term as President of Neuroscience Ireland. Next year we will celebrate our 15th year as Ireland’s National Neuroscience Society. This will give us an opportunity to reflect on past successes and, more importantly, to look to our future.

We are a national society with an international outlook. The Festival of Neuroscience held in Dublin earlier this year gave us the opportunity to showcase the high quality of Irish neuroscience research and to strengthen our relationship with our sister society, the British Neuroscience Association.  We will work on maintaining and increasing links with our colleagues in the UK, throughout Europe and beyond. As society president, I will sit on the governing council of FENS. Having a voice at European level is especially important as we advocate for increased investment in neuroscience research both nationally and internationally.

We are also mindful that Neuroscience Ireland is a society for the whole island of Ireland and over the next 2 years the Council aims to increase interaction and collaboration between neuroscientists north and south of the border.

We are fortunate to have a talented pool of young researchers in universities throughout the country and we will continue to support training of undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs via travel bursaries, workshops and the Young NSI Conference.

Finally, public engagement is a key part of our remit and we aim to continue our programme of creative and informative outreach activities.

I look forward to working with Ireland’s vibrant neuroscience community over the next 2 years to help achieve the society’s goals and I welcome suggestions, input and feedback from all members”.


Prof Jochen Prehn coordinates PD-MitoQUANT

Prof Jochen Prehn coordinates PD-MitoQUANT

PD-MitoQUANT is a new Innovative Medicines Initiative research project that will improve our understanding of Parkinson’s so that better treatments can be developed in the future. The project, which is coordinated by Prof Jochen Prehn at RCSI, will run for 3 years and receives funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) members and Parkinson’s UK.

PD-MitoQUANT focuses on how mitochondria, the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell, contribute to cell death and neurodegeneration when they malfunction. There is growing evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction is involved in Parkinson’s but no effective treatments have been developed based on this knowledge. PD-MitoQUANT will deepen our understanding of precisely how mitochondria malfunction in Parkinson’s, and develop improved tools for the early stages of drug development so that pharmaceutical companies can develop better treatments in the future.

The key PD-MitoQUANT Investigators based at RCSI are Dr Niamh Connolly and Dr Orla Watters. They will conduct interdisciplinary research involving fluorescence imaging of mitochondria, network analyses of transcriptomic and proteomic data, and systems/statistical modelling. Niamh notes, “While there are therapies currently available for Parkinson’s, they do not improve all symptoms, nor do they slow or prevent disease progression over time. With this collaborative, multi-disciplinary project we will develop a more comprehensive understanding of mitochondrial dysfunction in brain cells affected by Parkinson’s which in turn will lead to improved tools and targets for the early stages of drug development.”

“This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 821522. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA and Parkinson’s UK. The material presented and views expressed here reflect the author’s view and neither IMI nor the European Union, EFPIA, or any Associated Partners are responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.”

“A Tiny Spark” wins at the Sci On! Festival in Nevada

“A Tiny Spark” wins at the Sci On! Festival in Nevada

The Science on Screen film, A Tiny Spark, featuring the research of Galway Neuroscience Centre PI Dr Karen Doyle, has won its first film festival award. On May 6th 2019, the Sci On! Festivalin Reno, Nevada awarded “A Tiny Spark” with the 2019 Best Medical Documentary Award after screening it in the stunning Fleischmann Planetarium.

A Tiny Spark is a documentary directed by Niamh Heery, produced by Caroline Kealy with animations by Eric Dolan about stroke research and survivors. It has just started its international festival run and so far it has had screenings in Ireland, Australia, Oregon and Nevada.

The judging panel had the following to say about the film, which was funded by CÚRAM and Galway Film Centre’s Science on Screen Award:

Absolutely superb and engaging documentary, with an excellent and sensitive blending of interviews with animated scenes.
Such a powerful and perfectly-made film. The subject matter is so vital and relevant. It’s hard to find the words to describe such a meaningful and compassionate treatment of a condition that has impacted so many of us directly or indirectly, personally or through a friend or family member. Thank you for helping raise awareness — and to show that there is hope.

View the “A Tiny Spark” trailer here:

Prof David Finn elected as President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society

Prof David Finn elected as President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society

Congratulations to Prof. David Finn on becoming President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS)

David is Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at NUI Galway and was Galway Neuroscience Centre Director from 2012-2015. The overall aim of David’s research is to increase our understanding of the neurobiology of pain and psychiatric disorders including anxiety and depression.  See more here.

The ICRS is an international organisation dedicated to scientific research in all fields of the cannabinoids, ranging from biochemical, chemical and physiological studies of the endogenous cannabinoid system to studies of the abuse potential of recreational cannabis. In addition to acting as a source for impartial information on cannabis and the cannabinoids, the main role of the ICRS is to provide an open forum for researchers to meet and discuss their research. See more here.

The next Annual Symposium of the ICRS, the 30th Symposium, will be held in NUI Galway from 4th – 9th July 2020!

Dr Eilís Dowd awarded funding from the Michael J Fox Foundation

Dr Eilís Dowd awarded funding from the Michael J Fox Foundation

Dr Eilís Dowd,  Senior Lecturer at NUI Galway and president of Neuroscience Ireland, has been awarded funding of US$300,000 from The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to develop a novel approach to brain repair for Parkinson’s disease.

Click here to view Dr Dowd’s interview about the research funding on Ireland AM 

Parkinson’s is a condition that primarily affects a person’s ability to control movement leading to a progressive deterioration in ability. The symptoms of the condition are caused by the degeneration and death of brain cells that regulate movement.


Brain repair for Parkinson’s involves replacing these dead cells by transplanting healthy brain cells into the brain, but the widespread roll-out of this therapy has been hindered by the poor survival of the implanted cells.

In research that made global headlines recently, Dr Eilís Dowd’s research team demonstrated that the survival of the cells was dramatically improved when they were implanted into the brain within a supportive gel made from the natural material collagen. The funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow Dr Dowd to take this research to the next level where she will test if the collagen gel can also improve the survival of healthy brain cells generated from adult stem cells.

Commenting on the funding award, Dr Eilís Dowd at NUI Galway, said: “In our previous research published in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, we showed that collagen provides the cells with a nurturing, supportive environment in the brain and helps them to survive the aversive transplant process. This funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow us to test if this approach can also improve survival and reparative ability of healthy brain cells derived from adult stem cells. If so, this could lead to a dramatic improvement in brain repair approaches for Parkinson’s – a field that has been hampered for years by poor transplant survival.”

The Michael J Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today.


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