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Spotlight on Dr Sharn Perry

This year the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre was the key organising institute for the 2019 Australian Dementia Forum (ADF) held in Hobart, Tasmania. This forum gave dementia researchers Australia-wide the opportunity to come together to discuss recent advancements in research from the lab bench to the clinic, and the chance to meet those in the community living with dementia and their carers.

I had the pleasure of presenting and discussing my research at the forum, where my research into motor function decline in neurodegenerative disease was awarded best early career researcher for the poster in the field of Intervention and Treatment. It is common to experience age-related motor declines as we get older, but for some people these motor declines are accelerated due to pathological processes that occur in diseases such as dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Motor function declines because cells in the brain and spinal cord that control our muscles are vulnerable to disease mechanisms. My research explores how the integrity of the axon, the part of the cell that transmits messages throughout the body, is important for motor function. Using experimental models, we have discovered that changes to the axon of neurons, particularly motor neurons, the cells controlling the muscles, lead to motor function deficits in balance, coordination and gait. We have extended this research in experimental models of ALS, exploring how axon integrity can impact the progression of ALS disease mechanisms.

I was invited to present my recent findings at the Australia-Japan Joint Neurodegenerative Disease Symposium held in Adelaide, South Australia. This meeting was an excellent opportunity for me to meet and discuss my projects with leading neurodegenerative disease researchers across Australasia. My presentation, that focused on our research into protecting axons from degeneration in ALS, was awarded best oral communication by an early career researcher.