Neurolgical Foundation of New Zealand

Official partner to Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week

Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie

  • Senior Lecturer

  • University of Otago

Dr Parr-Brownlie’s research focuses on the neural mechanisms that underlie voluntary movements and the movement deficits of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that affects approximately 8000 people in New Zealand. To optimise current therapies or develop novel treatments for Parkinson’s disease, there’s a critical need to fully understand both the normal and pathophysiological roles of each component in the brain circuits that control movement. However, there is a major gap in knowledge for the brain circuit component called the basal ganglia-thalamocortical pathway.

In Parkinson’s disease, loss of the brain chemical dopamine causes profound changes in single cell activity in basal ganglia nuclei. It has been assumed that changes in basal ganglia activity in Parkinson’s disease are passed first to the motor thalamus and then to the motor cortex. Studies performed by Dr Parr-Brownlie have shown that motor cortex activity is impaired in Parkinson’s disease. Her investigation of the motor thalamus does not support a simple linear flow of pathological activity from basal ganglia to motor thalamus and motor cortex. She uses a combination of electrophysiological, behavioural and immunohistochemical techniques to address her research questions.