Research

  • Neurodevelopment & 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. Following Professor Williams extensive research achievement, Professor Christine Imms was appointed in 2020 as the ongoing APEX Australia Chair of Developmental Medicine.

    To grow our expertise in neurogenetics, Professor David Amor was appointed in 2017 as the Head of MCRI Neurodisability and Rehabilitation group and also the Lorenzo and Pamela Galli 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 neurodevelopmental disabilities.

    Our current major research themes:

    • Cerebral palsy and 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
    • Genetics of neurodevelopmental disability

    For further information please visit the Murdoch Children's Research Institute Neurodisability and Rehabilitation page on the Murdoch Children's Research Institute website.

    Research projects

    Some of our current research 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.
    • Exploring the use of stem cells in cerebral palsy
      This project looks at options for testing cord blood stem cells as a therapy for CP in Australia. As part of a national collaboration, a small clinical trial focussing on safety of single dose intravenous cord blood cell infusion is in progress for children with CP who have their sibling’s cord blood in storage.
    • 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.
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Smart Health Information Platform (SHIP)
      In collaboration with Deakin and Monash Universities, MCRI is developing an intelligent, web-based, user-sensitive autism SHIP to match user profiles with relevant resources. Going beyond existing SHIP technology, the project aims to develop and evaluate methods to support communication channels amongst small local teams, large professional groups and international collaborators and stakeholders.

    For further information please visit the  Murdoch Children's Research Institute Neurodisability and Rehabilitation website. 

    Collaborations

    We work in collaboration with our research partners: Murdoch Children's 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 Platforms

    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 Neurodisability and Rehabilitation group at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute who work closely with their Neurodevelopment & Disability 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 angela.guzys@mcri.edu.au  

    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.


     

    Publications

    To view our latest publications click here