Neurodevelopment and Disability

Research

  • Neurodevelopment and Disability is committed to improving the health and well-being of children with disabilities and their families. Our research aims to gain a greater understanding of the causes of childhood disabilities and to find the best therapeutic interventions for them, with the ultimate goal of improving outcomes and quality of life for every person with a disability.

    Our research team

    The Centre of Developmental Disability Research was formed in 2004 and renamed Solve@RCH in 2006.  Since then, there has been an exponential increase in research activities, resulting in significant improvements in the way we manage children with disabilities.  

    Solve@RCH is a clinically embedded child development and disability research centre, well-placed to conduct excellent clinical and discovery research, and translate evidence to practice and service delivery.  It encompasses the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), The Royal Children’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne.

    In 2011, the first Chair in Developmental Medicine in Australia, the APEX Australia Chair of Developmental Medicine, was created in partnership with the APEX Foundation for Research into Intellectual Disability, The University of Melbourne and The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.  Professor Katrina Williams, a leader in autism research, was appointed as both the Chair and as Director of Developmental Medicine at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Professor Dinah Reddihough AO is the Head of the MCRI Developmental Disability and Rehabilitation Research group and was instrumental in the development of the Chair in Developmental Medicine.

    Our research focus areas

    Our research focusses on many research areas simultaneously and endeavours to improve the identification, diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of children with developmental disabilities.

    Our current major research themes:

    • Cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities
    • Intellectual disability
    • Disabilities with a known genetic cause including Prader-Willi Syndrome
    • Autism spectrum disorder
    • Quality of life for children with disabilities and their families

    For further information please visit the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Developmental Disability page on the Murdoch Children's Research Institute website.

    Research achievements

    Major grants

    NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cerebral Palsy Grant:  Chief Investigator Professor Dinah Reddihough

    NHMRC grant of $2.5million over 5 years to establish a Centre of Research Excellence in Cerebral Palsy (CRE-CP).

    Leading researchers, clinicians and allied health professionals are joining forces with parents, carers and persons with cerebral palsy in a concerted effort to bring about change in the management and treatment of cerebral palsy.

    For further information or to get involved please visit the CRE-CP website

    NHMRC Project Grant:  Chief Investigator Dr Sue Reid PhD

    NHMRC Project Grant - Understanding white matter injury in term-born children with cerebral palsy (2014-2016).

    The risk factors, causes and timing of white matter injury in children with cerebral palsy who were born at term is of great interest.  In this study, imaging findings, clinical outcomes, and causal pathways in both preterm and term born children with a pattern of white matter injury on their brain scans will be compared. 

    Awards

    Dr Adrienne Harvey PhD

    Melbourne Children’s Campus Career Development Award (2015-2017). 

    This accomplished senior physiotherapist will spend two days each week over three years, focussing on the important problem of dyskinesia in children with cerebral palsy.

    Professor Dinah Reddihough

    University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor’s Fellowship (2011 & 2014).

    Lifetime Achievement Award, 2014 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards.

    Celebrated as a pioneering clinician, researcher and educator, Dinah was honoured as a key force for change in the field of developmental medicine. The award paid tribute to Dinah’s determination that children with disabilities should be able to have the same expectations of care, and measurable improvements in outcomes, as other areas of medicine.

    Dr Sue Reid PhD

    NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (2014-2017). 

    This prestigious award will allow Sue to explore brain imaging, clinical outcomes and associated impairments in children with cerebral palsy, with the goal of improving our understanding of this condition.  The long term goal is to determine strategies that could lead to prevention of some cases. 

    Research projects

    Some of our current projects include:

    • Improving understanding of MRI patterns, structure-function relationships and causal pathways in cerebral palsy
      This program focusses on improving understanding of patterns of injury on brain MRI scans, and relating these MRI findings to the type of cerebral palsy and the child’s level of function. The research program will go on to study causal pathways in subgroups of children with cerebral palsy based on their brain MRI findings.
    • Access, cost and quality of care for Victorian children with cerebral palsy
      This research, led by PhD student Elaine Meehan, involves investigating how children with cerebral palsy use different medical services, specifically hospital inpatient, outpatient and emergency departments, and GPs and private paediatricians. An understanding of the patterns of medical service use in this group will inform efforts to deliver services more efficiently.
    • FAB Trial - Multi-site randomised controlled trial of Fluoxetine in children and adolescents with autism
      This NHMRC-funded multisite study aims to determine the efficacy and safety of fluoxetine for treating repetitive behaviours in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. The study is recruiting children aged between 7.5 and 17 years of age with troublesome, restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behaviours.
    • Unique Autism: Understanding differences between twins
      This project studies genetically-identical twin pairs in which one or both twins has ASD. The research seeks to study in detail the role of epigenetics in twins with ASD. If only one of a pair of twins has ASD, it is possible that the difference most likely lies in the settings of their epigenetic gene switches.

    For further information please visit the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Developmental Disability page on the Murdoch Children's Research Institute website.

    Collaborations

    We work in collaboration with our research partners: Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, The University of Melbourne, Australian Catholic University, Deakin University, Monash University, University of Western Australia, La Trobe University, the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Yooralla and the Cerebral Palsy Support Network.

    Research databases

    Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register (VCPR)

    The Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register (VCPR) collects information on people with cerebral palsy, born or living in the Australian state of Victoria since 1970. The Register was founded by Professor Dinah Reddihough in 1987 and is now one of the largest geographically-defined cerebral palsy registers in the world. The Register is managed by researchers from the Developmental Disability and Rehabilitation Research group at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute who work closely with their Developmental Medicine colleagues.

    The VCPR is used primarily for research purposes.

    Any information collected about you or your child is treated as confidential and used only by the project staff, unless otherwise specified.  We can only disclose information with your permission, except as required by law.

    More information.

    Victorian Prader-Willi Syndrome Register

    The Victorian Prader-Willi Syndrome Register collects information about all individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) who were born, living or receiving services in Victoria. It is coordinated by the Developmental Disability and Rehabilitation Research group within the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and works alongside the PWS multidisciplinary clinic at the Royal Children’s Hospital. This Register aims to facilitate PWS research and to provide important information regarding the birth prevalence and the characteristics of PWS from birth to adulthood.

    Any information collected about you or your child is treated as confidential and used only by the project staff, unless otherwise specified.  We can only disclose information with your permission, except as required by law.

    For further information, please email tess.foerste@mcri.edu.au or call 03 9345 4562.

    Victorian Neural Tube Defects Register

    The Victorian Neural Tube Defects Register collects information on people with a neural tube defect (such as spina bifida) or sacral agenesis, born or living in Victoria and attending the Royal Children’s Hospital. 

    By collecting information about Victorians with disabilities we can monitor trends in frequency of occurrence over time, assess risk factors for developing a disability, link to studies about best interventions and assess outcomes. We can also investigate service use in a way that will inform service improvements.

    The ultimate aim of this life-long register is to better understand the medical, educational and social needs of individuals and families with a neural tube defect or sacral agenesis.  This will enable improvement and provision of best medical care and advocate for necessary access to services, with a view to improve inclusion and quality of life.

    Any information collected about you or your child is treated as confidential and used only by the project staff, unless otherwise specified.  We can only disclose information with your permission, except as required by law.

    For information about how to join the Victorian Neural Tube Defect Registry, contact Developmental Medicine on 03 9345 5898 or Dev.Med@rch.org.au.

    Contacts for Neurodevelopmental Research (CoNR)

    Contacts for Neurodevelopmental Research (CoNR) is a registry of children with neurodevelopmental disability whose families are interested in participating in research. The overall objective of this contact list is to facilitate research into neurodevelopmental disorders, both for researchers at the Melbourne Children’s Campus and to increase potential for international collaborations on neurodevelopmental disabilities. 

    Families are invited to join ConR so that our team can directly contact them to let them know about relevant upcoming studies. Studies could range from a short online survey to a clinical trial. Participants may then choose whether to contact the study directly for further information and enrolment.

    More information.

    Publications