Neuroscience and Pain Research

At the Kolling we have world-leading expertise driving innovative research to understand the basis of disorders that effect the brain, muscles and nerves.

Neurodegenerative disorders, mental health disorders and pain management represent some of the greatest health challenges today.

Our neuroscience research focuses on the diseases, disorders and injuries of the nervous system such as Parkinson’s, mitochondrial diseases, mental health disorders, spinal cord injury, brain cancer and pain.

Our pain management team is recognised as national leaders in pain research, effectively translating biomedical research into improved clinical care and education programs. An estimated one in five Australians suffer from chronic pain, locking many patients in to a cycle of medication,, depression and bed rest, costing the Australian economy approximately $34 billion a year. We bring together a multidisciplinary group of clinicians, researchers and educators to improve our understanding of all forms of pain and their treatments,- from acute to chronic pain and cancer pain management.

Areas of strength

Ageing and Pharmacology

Ageing & Pharmacology

Researchers within the Laboratory of Ageing and Pharmacology are working to improve healthy ageing in older people. Our focus is on prevention and better management of the geriatric syndromes, including frailty, falls and confusion.

We are part of the Penney Ageing Research Unit and our research aims to improve the safety and effectiveness of medicines for older adults. We use laboratory, clinical and population based studies to understand the risks and benefits of medicines in older people, particularly with those with multiple chronic medical conditions. Our research aims to inform drug choices, doses and formulations of medicines for older people. This will help older people benefit from medicines and minimise adverse effects.

We have developed a pharmacological risk assessment tool, the Drug Burden Index, to assess the impact of an older person’s medicines on their physical function. We have demonstrated that higher Drug Burden Index is linked to loss of independence, more falls, frailty, longer stays in hospital and a greater mortality.

Find out more

Sutton Arthritis Research Laboratory

The Sutton Arthritis Research Laboratory focuses on solving health issues related to inflammatory arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis. Our ultimate aim is to find a cure.

We also investigate other inflammatory forms of arthritis, including psoriatic arthritis, as well as inflammatory skin conditions.

Our research is both laboratory-based basic science and patient focused. This combination allows our research findings to be directly incorporated into clinical practice.

Find out more

Back Pain Research

We are a highly collaborative research team, engaging with researchers across a wide variety of disciplines. Working closely with multidisciplinary teams, including the Osteoarthritis Research Team, we are committed to designing and testing innovative, accessible, technology-based interventions that could speed recovery and decrease the burden of musculoskeletal pain globally. Our vision is to promote health and quality of life for the millions of people who experience back pain.

Our research focuses on evaluating common treatments for back pain, and developing innovative interventions including the use of digital health technology to improve management for the condition.

Find out more

Bill Walsh Translational Cancer Research Laboratory

The Bill Walsh Translational Cancer Research Laboratory is the research arm of the Medical Oncology Department at Royal North Shore Hospital.

We focus on increasing our understanding of cancer biology and how cancer will behave. We are also working to identify better ways to diagnose cancer.

Through our research we are improving cancer treatment and offering better outcomes for those with the disease.

Find out more

Bill Walsh Translational Cancer Research Laboratory

The Bill Walsh Translational Cancer Research Laboratory is the research arm of the Medical Oncology Department at Royal North Shore Hospital.

We focus on increasing our understanding of cancer biology and how cancer will behave. We are also working to identify better ways to diagnose cancer.

Through our research we are improving cancer treatment and offering better outcomes for those with the disease.

Find out more

Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre

Our research at the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre focuses on developing and communicating evidence-based research for best practice dementia care in the clinical and community settings.

We are a team with expertise across a range of disciplines, all working to improve the lives of people with dementia. We focus on priority areas in dementia care so that our research findings can lead to improved practices.

By bringing together people with dementia, their carers, researchers, clinicians, health care organisations and industry partners, we are well placed to translate our research into practice.

Our team addresses areas of national interest and examines these from the perspective of those receiving, delivering, managing and governing services.

The Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre was named the first National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Centre for Better Health and continues to work with the NHMRC, the Department of Health, Dementia Australia and three innovative industry partners, HammondCare, Helping Hand Aged Care and Brightwater Care Group.

Find out more

Dermatology

At the Royal North Shore Hospital Department of Dermatology Clinical and Translational Medicine Laboratory, we focus on three key areas including clinical trials, clinical projects and translational studies.

It can take more than 30 years from the discovery of a new medicine in the laboratory to the approved use of that compound with a patient in a clinic. It can then be another decade before that medicine is widely adopted by the medical community.

Our research team accelerates this entire process in three important ways. Firstly, by being actively involved in clinical trials, we can offer our patients immediate access to the latest and most advanced medicines.

Secondly, we conduct clinical studies to improve our understanding of the use of existing and new medicines, alongside projects to improve the early diagnosis and recognition of diseases.

And lastly, we perform laboratory experiments, with a focus on clinical observation and human tissues to better understand the causes of these conditions.

Ultimately, this means we are able to contribute to the discovery of new and targeted therapies for all dermatological conditions.

Find out more

Women and Babies Research

Women and Babies Research aims to inform, evaluate and improve health policy and service delivery for mothers and babies. Our overall goal is to ensure a healthy start to life.

Whilst every expectant parent looks forward to celebrating the birth of a healthy baby, some families are faced with pregnancy or newborn complications. We investigate factors linked to pregnancy problems such as preterm birth, stillbirth, fetal growth restriction, hypertension and diabetes in pregnancy.

We assess clinical interventions and models of care to determine the best course of action for those who experience difficulties during pregnancy or during the birthing process. This research is vital in understanding how pregnancy complications are best prevented and managed.

We also know that what happens before and during pregnancy and birth can influence the course of a newborn’s life and increase their risk of obesity, chronic disease and other long-term adverse outcomes. Research has shown that events in pregnancy and birth can also impact the longer-term outcomes of children, including their behaviour, academic performance and physical health. The goal of all our work is to ensure optimal health for mothers and their babies.

Women and Babies Research is a partnership between the University of Sydney and the Northern Sydney Local Health District based at Royal North Shore Hospital.

Find out more

Pregnancy & Reproduction

Allied Health

Research within the Kolling Institute focuses on the role of allied health professionals in patient care, from assessment and diagnosis to the management of patients.

Across the Northern Sydney Local Health District, there are more than 1,300 allied health professionals, representing 11 per cent of the workforce. These teams not only provide vital support in hospitals and specialist clinics, but in community settings as well.

The Northern Sydney Local Health District Allied Health Research team undertakes activities which encourage the participation of allied health clinicians in research activities. We are working collaboratively to build a culture of research which will ultimately inform best-practice care for patients.

Find out more

Neuroscience

Our group investigates the way neurogenetic disorders develop.

We focus on Mitochondrial diseases and movement disorders. We also provide diagnostic support for our large clinic for patients with mitochondrial diseases and movement disorders.

Our focus is to develop accurate methods of diagnosis and advance understanding of how genetic mutations cause neurological disease. Ultimately, we aim to translate the results of our research into improved clinical care for our patients with neurological disorders.

Defining an individual’s disease-causing mutations provides clinicians and patients with information for appropriate treatment and genetic counselling. We use next-generation sequencing methods to discover and identify new gene mutations in individuals who may have unusual disease symptoms.

Our specific goal is to identify key molecular pathways involved in the development of neurological diseases, with a particular focus on mitochondrial function. To understand an individual’s genetic mutation, we use various methods including molecular biological techniques, mitochondrial function assays, biomarker measurement and patient derived stem cells to create in vitro models of neurological disease.

Our clinical studies are aimed at determining the history of mitochondrial diseases, identifying factors that can predict disease progression and severity, and developing tools to monitor disease progression to enhance the performance of clinical trials.

Funding sources include the Mito Foundation, the National Health and Medical Research Council, HSP Research Foundation, Parkinson’s NSW, the Hughie Foundation and the Rebecca Cooper Medical Research Foundation.

Find out more

Neuroscience

Nursing & Midwifery

The Northern Sydney Local Health District Nursing and Midwifery Research Centre located within the Kolling Institute provides support, training and consultation to enable nurses and midwives to conduct research, undertake practice development and innovate within our health care systems. Our work in the centre focuses on supporting our colleagues to provide the highest possible quality care and treatment through inquiry, analysis and implementation of the best available evidence.

Comprising a large proportion of the health workforce, nurses and midwives have a key role in the care and treatment of patients and women in Northern Sydney Local Health District. Their research and innovation in all specialities and services is diverse and impactful.

Find out more

Osteoarthritis Research

The Osteoarthritis Research Team is a large and highly collaborative team which focuses on all aspects of clinical and translational research in osteoarthritis.

We work closely with multidisciplinary teams, including the Back Pain Research Team and are committed to designing and testing innovative, accessible, technology-based interventions that could accelerate recovery and decrease the burden of musculoskeletal pain globally.

Our research focuses on numerous aspects of osteoarthritis including the epidemiology of osteoarthritis, imaging in osteoarthritis, clinical trials, novel therapies in disease management and health services research for chronic disease management.

Find out more

Pain

At the Pain Management Research Institute, our vision is to be a global leader in comprehensive pain management solutions. We strive to achieve this by undertaking cutting-edge research and delivering education and training to clinicians caring for people with chronic pain.

Since our inception in 1991, we have focused on patient advocacy and integrating our research and training with clinical services. Through this process, the latest research can inform future care.

The Pain Management Research Institute is part of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health. It has academic and lab space within the Kolling Institute building, as well as facilities in the Douglas building at Royal North Shore Hospital.

From here, our clinical research is undertaken alongside the nationally and internationally-recognised pain education program. Patients with acute pain, cancer pain and chronic non-cancer pain receive treatment in collaboration with the Michael J Cousins’ Pain Management & Research Centre.

Find out more

Allied Health

Research within the Kolling Institute focuses on the role of allied health professionals in patient care, from assessment and diagnosis to the management of patients.

Across the Northern Sydney Local Health District, there are more than 1,300 allied health professionals, representing 11 per cent of the workforce. These teams not only provide vital support in hospitals and specialist clinics, but in community settings as well.

The Northern Sydney Local Health District Allied Health Research team undertakes activities which encourage the participation of allied health clinicians in research activities. We are working collaboratively to build a culture of research which will ultimately inform best-practice care for patients.

Find out more

Rehabilitation

The John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research focuses on research and education in rehabilitation and injury-related disability.

Our centre is part of the University of Sydney and the Kolling Institute, and our team has broad experience across a range of disciplines.

Our primary goals are to:

  • Generate new knowledge to improve health outcomes for people with injury related disability
  • Promote links with the research community, partner organisations, patient advocacy groups and non-government organisations, to support the effective transfer of research outcomes into health policy
  • Improve clinical care for people with injury-related disability and translate research outcomes into clinical practice.

The centre, which was formerly the Rehabilitation Studies Unit, receives major financial support from the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority and NSW icare Lifetime Care.

Find out more

Rehabilitation

News about Neuroscience and Pain Research

Cancer expertise recognised

Cancer expertise recognised

The Kolling’s Dr Amanda Hudson will lead an exciting pilot study after being awa..... Read more

Philanthropic funding brings new hope to those with chronic pain

Philanthropic funding brings new hope to those with chronic pain

Some of the nation’s leading pain experts are set to embark on research which th..... Read more

Key appointment for Kolling researcher

Key appointment for Kolling researcher

Congratulations to the Kolling’s Dr Ryan Davis following his appointment as pres..... Read more

Leadership Group:

Chairs:

Professor Paul GlareProfessor Paul Glare

Chair in Pain Medicine, Northern Clinical School
Director, Pain Management Research Institute
Head, Discipline of Pain Medicine, Sydney Medical School

Professor Lisa Harvey Professor Lisa Harvey

Senior Researcher
Medicine, Northern Clinical School
John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research

Leadership Group members:

Dr Karin Aubrey Dr Karin Aubrey

Neurobiology of Pain Laboratory Head,
Senior Hospital Scientist,
Pain Management Research Institute,
Kolling Institute,
Senior Research Fellow, Northern Clinical School, University of Sydney

Dr Ryan Davis Dr Ryan Davis

NSW Health early-mid career research fellow

Dr Davis joined the Kolling Institute in 2011 after completing his PhD research at the University of Otago, Christchurch School of Medicine in New Zealand. He received an NHMRC Peter Doherty early career fellowship in his first year postdoctoral and is currently a NSW Health early-mid career fellow.

Professor Jim Elliott Professor James Elliott, PhD, PT, FAPTA

Professor of Allied Health NSLHD (Conjoint)
Director – Neuromuscular Imaging Research Laboratory

Professor Sarah Hilmer Professor Sarah Hilmer BScMed(Hons) MBBS(Hons) FRACP PhD

Conjoint Professor of Geriatric Pharmacology
Medicine, Northern Clinical School

Professor Carolyn Sue Professor Carolyn Sue AM

Executive Director of the Kolling Institute
Director of Neurogenetics
Director of the Centre of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders
Senior Staff Specialist in Department of Neurology at Royal North Shore Hospital
Director of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research (Sydney Node)

Professor Chris VaughanProfessor Chris Vaughan

Clinical Professor 
Medicine, Northern Clinical School
Kolling Institute
Principal Hospital Scientist, Royal North Shore Hospital

Dr Sue Kurrle

Curran Professor in Health Care of Older People
Northern Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health
Member of the Charles Perkins Centre

Events, News and Seminars

New Kolling Research Strategy Brochure

New Kolling Research Strategy Brochure

Related links See Our New Research Strategy Download Our Research Strategy Support Us Read more

Category: Research Excellence

The Kolling unveils new research strategy

The Kolling unveils new research strategy

Related links See Our New Research Strategy Download Our Research Strategy Support Us Read more

Category: Research Excellence

New funding supports innovative approach to diagnose heart failure

New funding supports innovative approach to diagnose heart failure

Kolling researcher and Royal North Shore Hospital cardiologist Dr Rebecca Kozor will lead a world-fi..... Read more

Category: Cardiovascular and Renal Research, Funding support