Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka and The University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research recently played host to Dr Alexander Moreno, a Canadian neuropsychologist based in Montreal. With assistance from AGE-WELL, Alexander has been able to visit Queensland and work with Nadeeka on an international collaboration. Here he answers a few questions about his work.
How did you hear about Nadeeka’s research?
Dr. Dissanayaka’s trajectory on Virtual Reality (VR) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) has crossed borders. Her innovative work combining electrophysiological methods, VR, and cognitive behavioural therapy has the potential to reveal a new pre-clinical marker for PD and improve the way we treat psychological symptoms in this disease. Understanding and treating emotional disorders in PD is very important to improve the quality of life of individuals with PD and their families. Funding this kind of research is of paramount importance to advance knowledge in this area and to create necessary interventions.
How long were you at The University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR)?
I was at UQCCR for two intensive weeks with a travel award from AGE-WELL (Aging Gracefully across Environments using Technology to Support Wellness, Engagement and Long Life NCE Inc.). ACCESS awards offer funding to support AGE-WELL Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) in experiential learning opportunities such as internships and exchanges. With Dr. Dissanayaka, it was the perfect match from day 1. We share a common understanding of the impact of technology on aging, as well as the relevance of transdisciplinarity in the generation of technological solutions for Parkinson’s disease.
What were you working on at UQCCR?
We have developed an international collaboration for a systematic review of the use of VR in neurocognitive disorders (NCD). This is the first step to understand the landscape of innovative interventions to improve cognition and quality of life in individuals with NCD. I was involved in clinical activities with individuals with motor disorders (including older adults). I also had the chance to meet the different stakeholders involved in her project and to collaborate closely with professionals from different backgrounds and specialties (e.g., engineers, speech pathologists, neurologists, students, etc.). In the future and with appropriate funding, we could translate the results of the systematic review into a specific intervention to improve cognitive problems in different forms of NCD, not only PD.
Photo – Dr Alexander Moreno with Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka and her team at UQCCR.
AGE-WELL NCE (Aging Gracefully across Environments using Technology to Support Wellness, Engagement and Long Life NCE Inc.) is Canada’s technology and aging network. AGE-WELL is dedicated to the creation of technologies and services that benefit older adults and caregivers. Their aim is to help older Canadians maintain their independence, health and quality of life through technologies and services that increase their safety and security, support their independent living, and enhance their social participation. Launched in 2015 through the federally-funded Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program, AGE-WELL addresses a wide range of complex issues in technology and aging through receptor-driven transdisciplinary research, training programs, partnerships, knowledge mobilization and the commercial development of technologies. AGE-WELL is funded through the NCE program from March 2015 to February 2020.