Comparative Neuroanatomical and Neuropathological Research

About us

Professor Ken Ashwell

Prof. Ken Ashwell’s research work is aimed at understanding how the history of the Australian environment has shaped the evolution of the nervous systems of the remarkable animals (marsupials, monotremes and ratites) that are found there.  Australia has been the site of a unique experiment in mammalian evolution that has produced an adaptive radiation in nervous system structure and function that matches placental mammal evolution.

  1. Development of the vestibular system in monotremes and its role in the behaviour of early hatchlings.
  2. Comparative study of the development of the arterial supply to the developing brain in mammals and its relationship to brain growth and encephalization.
  3. Development of the trigeminal and vestibular systems in marsupials and their roles in early postnatal behaviour.
  4. Evolution of the nervous systems of Australian megafauna from the Pleistocene.
Dr Craig Hardman

Dr. Hardman's background and interest is as a neuroanatomist, with studies in comparative primate neuroanatomy (in particular humans, macaques and marmosets) as well as in human neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and progressive supranuclear palsy. Dr. Hardman has published a number of articles in international refereed journals and is currently working on a stereotaxic, chemoarchitectural and quantitative atlas of the common marmoset brain. He has directly supervised 5 research students (3 BSc Hons and 2 Medicine ILP). He is currently a member of the School of Medical Science Research, Teaching and Honours Committees and was the Honours coordinator from 2003 to 2007.

A Quantitative Stereotaxic and Chemoarchitectural Atlas of the Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) Brain
In this study, the brains of several marmosets were imaged using a magnetic resonance imaging machine at the Howard Florey Institute in Melbourne. These brains of these animals were then sectioned and stained with various routine, histochemical and immunohistochemical stains to elicit the cytoarchitectural and chemoarchitectural details. Delineations of cortical regions, axonal tracts and deep laying nuclei (aggregations of neuronal cell bodies) were performed and volumes of these structures and the number of neurons (brain cells) contained within them estimated. 

Clinicopathological Correlations and Pathological Progression of Parkinsonian Disorders
In this study, the total number of neurons and amount of neuropathology within multiple brain regions is compared between Parkinson's disease and/or progressive supranuclear palsy cases and normal age and sex matched controls. The extent of cell loss and neuropathology (if any) is also compared across cases and with the clinical features present during life, age at onset, age at death and the duration of the disease. This data is extremely valuable in gaining insights into the pathophysiology which underlie the symptoms of these diseases as well as into the sequence of pathological events which lead to neuronal

Team

Grants & Funding

  • UNSW Goldstar Award (2004) UNSW School of Medical Sciences
  • UNSW Faculty Research Grants Program (2003) UNSW School of Medical Sciences
  • NH&MRC Peter Doherty Fellowship (1998 to 2002) Monash University Department of Medicine
  • NH&MRC Travelling Award for Research Training (2000) UNSW School of Psychology
  • Small ARC Grant (2000) Monash University Department of Medicine
  • Collier Charitable Fund Equipment Grant (1999) Monash University Department of Medicine

Students

  • Peter Aquilina (PhD)