Nov 22, 2021

Trinity Neurologists Make Leap in Motor Neurone Disease Research

The disease currently has no known cure.

Faye MaddenContributing Writer
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

Trinity researchers have made a major breakthrough in understanding and treating motor neurone disease, a degenerative condition which currently has no known cure.

It was discovered that motor neurone disease has four distinct patterns of changes in electrical signals that can be identified using electroencephalography, a record of brain activity.

These findings will assist in identifying patients for clinical trials and the creation of new treatments for the disease.


The research, which was was published today in the scientific journal Brain, was carried out by Stefan Dukic, a Trinity PhD student of neurology, under the supervision of Dr Bahman Nasseroleslami, who is the Fr Tony Coote assistant professor in neuroelectric signal analysis.

Motor neurone disease is a fatal, neurological condition which causes symptoms such as progressive paralysis, changes in thinking and increasing physical disability.

The current average life expectancy for a person diagnosed with motor neurone disease is one to three years.

There are over 500 people in Ireland with motor neurone disease, with one person diagnosed every three days.

In a press statement, Nasseroleslami said: “Understanding how brain networking is disrupted in MND has been the focus of our research for the past 10 years. This work shows that we are on the right track, and that the technologies we have developed can identify important differences between different patient groups.”

While trials of new drugs are being undertaken, the disease is known to be very diverse in its progression, with different patterns of disability and life expectancy in every patient.

The electrical signal analysis research developed in Trinity has discovered that different patterns of brain network disruption reflect the underlying disease process.

It has been shown that these patterns of brain network disruptions in the disease cluster into four distinct subtypes that are predictive of how the disease progresses.

Prof Orla Hardiman, a Trinity professor of neurology and motor neurone disease researcher, described the discovery as “a very important and exciting body of work”.

She added: “The implications of this work are enormous, as we will have new and reliable ways to segregate patients based on what is really happening within the nervous system in MND.”

In 2016, Trinity researchers were part of another major MND study. Over 200 researchers from 17 countries helped discover three new genes linked to causes of Motor Neuron disease.

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