Cognitive Neurologist Professor Peter Nestor was recently appointed Conjoint Professor of Neuroscience between The University of Queensland and Mater and has started his appointment by establishing a memory clinic at Mater.
The memory clinic is a multidisciplinary tertiary referral clinic, providing clinical and cognitive assessments for people with suspected degenerative brain diseases that may give rise to dementia.
Through the clinic, Prof Nestor has a particular focus on atypical and young-onset dementias which can be diagnostically challenging. The clinic’s areas of focus—cognitive neurology and young-onset dementia—makes it the first of its kind in Queensland.
“Obviously it’s not practical to biopsy people’s brains in life, so on the research side, we’re working very hard to try to get more accurate diagnoses of the various underlying pathologies through novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology,” Prof Nestor said.
“Standard MRI is often not very useful in detecting dementia. It’s actually the clinical profile and the cognitive tests that usually inform the diagnosis.
“A couple of new ways we’re using MRI to make diagnoses include a technique called diffusion imaging and also through measuring iron in the brain—the emerging story from our studies to date is that the different degenerative diseases show different patterns of iron accumulation.”
Prof Nestor also develops novel tests such as language tasks, visuoperceptual tasks, attention tasks and memory tasks to more accurately make and track diagnoses.
Another major project Prof Nestor will undertake is establishing a brain bank.
“We plan to resurrect a Queensland brain bank. There was one in the past but it died out through lack of investment. But that’s very crucial for the clinical pathological research I’m planning to do,” Prof Nestor said.
“As the clinic matures, I envisage that we will also have sub-clinics within it. Different patients will have different clinical needs, according to which form of degenerative dementia they have. For example, patients with frontotemporal dementia will need clinical psychology and speech therapy. This way, we can offer bespoke services to these different groups to make sure they’re getting the best possible care.”
Prof Nestor commenced his training at the Alfred and Royal Melbourne Hospital, before finishing at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. From there, he went to Cambridge and completed a fellowship and PhD in Cognitive Neurology, staying on as a consultant neurologist and researcher for 15 years. Following that, he conducted research at the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Disease, before commencing at Mater.