How we imagine the future

Dr Muireann Irish discovered which parts of our brain are essential to imagine the future, ranging from simple things like “I must remember my keys and my wallet” to imagining complex events such as “my next holiday”.
Muireann’s work will inform the development of activities for dementia patients that will improve their quality of life. Credit: L’Oréal Australia
Muireann’s work will inform the development of activities for dementia patients that will improve their quality of life. Credit: L’Oréal Australia
And she’s shown that people with dementia don’t just lose the ability to remember the past, they also lose the ability to envisage the future. While working at Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of New South Wales, Muireann has demonstrated that patients with dementia are unable to imagine future events or to engage in future-oriented forms of memory, and she has revealed the key brain regions that support these complex functions. Continue reading How we imagine the future

More accurate readings of the heart

Almost everyone has had their blood pressure measured with an inflatable cuff around the arm. But as useful as this is, it can differ from the reading at the heart itself.
Using a mathematical model to transform how we measure blood pressure. Credit: Mark Butlin
Using a mathematical model to transform how we measure blood pressure. Credit: Mark Butlin
Twenty years ago Sydney scientists found a way to get that extra information. They created a model that gives the pressure at the main artery of the heart, using the wrist’s pressure pulse (the shape of the ‘waves’ that both travel along arteries when the heart pumps blood, and travel back to the heart as it fills with blood). The model wasn’t applicable to children, since their limbs are still growing – so now they’re adapting it to fit. Continue reading More accurate readings of the heart

Reinventing catalysts

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer is working to integrate new battery and solar cell technologies into the walls and roofs of new houses, and to transform the somewhat ‘black art’ of catalysis—the process that cracks crude oil into useful fuels, oils and chemicals at every refinery. He has already helped to create over 200 new jobs with four spin-out companies. Continue reading Reinventing catalysts

Changing the minds of dementia patients

“I’m ecstatic about the impact our programs have on kids, and knowing that we’ve changed their lives for the better. But we need to ask ‘what about our retirees?’” says Professor Ron Rapee, ARC Laureate Fellow, and former Director of the Centre for Emotional Health.
Viviana is developing programs that might help lower susceptibility to dementia. Credit: Myles Pritchard, Macquarie University
Viviana is developing programs that might help lower susceptibility to dementia. Credit: Myles Pritchard, Macquarie University
Retirees are less likely to suffer from mental health problems but they still develop anxiety and depression – and there’s increasing evidence these conditions are risk factors for dementia. To make things worse, they’re often left untreated as there’s a perception that it’s normal for older people to suffer depression as they lose their friends, health and independence. Continue reading Changing the minds of dementia patients

Add colour for 10 times more gas

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Matthew Lee (left) and Mike (right) injecting nutrients into a coal seam 80 metres below ground. Credit: Sabrina Beckmann
Adding a simple textile dye can increase the methane yield of coal seam gas wells by a factor of 10, researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have found. The discovery could breathe new life into old, exhausted wells, reducing the need for new ones. It could also improve the economics of renewable biogas energy production. Continue reading Add colour for 10 times more gas

What happens next?

You’re in hospital: should you stay? Should you leave? What’s your risk of dying?
The patient’s ‘forecast’ is continually updated with the results of each of their medical tests. Credit: Chris Stacey, Macquarie University
The patient’s ‘forecast’ is continually updated with the results of each of their medical tests. Credit: Chris Stacey, Macquarie University
By mining electronic health records, researchers at Macquarie University believe they can help improve decision making by health professionals. Dr Blanca Gallego Luxan is investigating using hospital information and state health and death registries to fill gaps in patient care – whether due to discontinuity of care, lack of information on a condition, or simply the limits of what humans can predict. Continue reading What happens next?

Collaborating to combat killers

Indonesian and Australian researchers are working together to combat two big killers: pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Around six million young Indonesians catch pneumonia each year, according to a 2008 study, and it’s the number one killer of children under five. Researchers now think there might be a link to how much time kids are spending out in the sunshine—more specifically, their level of vitamin D. Continue reading Collaborating to combat killers

Shedding ‘spooky’ light on unbreakable security

‘Perfect entanglement’ of two light beams has opened a major step towards highly secure quantum communication systems. The University of Queensland’s Professor Tim Ralph and his colleagues from Canada and Russia have developed a technique to restore entangled light beams that have been distributed between distant points. Continue reading Shedding ‘spooky’ light on unbreakable security

Hoarding disorder: why is it hard to part with stuff?

“I’m fascinated by why people love objects so much,” says Dr Melissa Norberg, Director of the Behavioural Science Laboratory at Macquarie University.
Melissa wants to know what makes objects so appealing. Credit: Chris Stacey, Macquarie University
Melissa wants to know what makes objects so appealing. Credit: Chris Stacey, Macquarie University
“What is it about the items (or the person) that makes objects so appealing?” While we’re all guilty of holding on to a few sentimental things, Melissa’s interest is in studying those who meet the criteria for hoarding disorder. With Associate Professor Jessica Grisham at the University of New South Wales, Melissa has been investigating how mood affects peoples’ ability to throw things out. Continue reading Hoarding disorder: why is it hard to part with stuff?