Research interests and backgrounds of Minds for Minds researchers and clinicians

Professor Russell Snell

I am a geneticist with a long-term interest in finding human disease genes and variations in genes in general that cause alterations in phenotypes. I was involved in isolating disease genes for the following conditions: Huntington's disease, Myotonic Dystrophy and Tuberous Sclerosis. My group is identifying causative mutations and developing model systems to study the disease mechanisms. More generally my group's focus is on the molecular genetics of disease, in particular neurological conditions.

Dr Rosamund Hill

I am a clinical neurologist working at Auckland City Hospital and in private practice with a passion for understanding this condition as I have a son aged 8 with severe autism. I have previously completed a research degree (M.D.) at the University of Auckland Medical School in epilepsy.

Dr Jessie Jacobsen

I am a molecular biologist who is interested in the genetics underlying human conditions. I worked at the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School before returning to New Zealand in 2012. I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to help establish a genetic research programme for autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders in New Zealand.

Dr Mike Taylor

I am a microbiologist interested in the ecology of complex microbial communities. Having worked in the past on microbes associated with various marine and terrestrial animals, I am now starting to apply the same techniques to study the microbial communities within humans. The bacteria and other microorganisms in the human gut have a profound impact on our health, and there is evidence for a link between gut bacteria and the occurrence of autism; this will be a particular focus of my ongoing research.

Dr Johanna Montgomery

I am the Principal Investigator of the Synaptic Function Research Group at The University of Auckland. My primary research focus is in understanding the mechanisms that guide the formation, plasticity and elimination of synapses in the central nervous system and how alterations in these processes manifest into neuronal disorders. This work has resulted in publications in Neuron, Nature Neuroscience and the Journal of Neuroscience. In collaboration with our peers at Stanford University, we are currently examining how synapse dysfunction could contribute to Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Associate Professor Klaus Lehnert

I am an experienced functional biologist with an interest in understanding the molecular mechanism through which genetic variations cause disease. I am applying my interest in the computational analysis of large and complex data to identify candidate genetic variations. I use gene function and molecular pathway analysis to prioritise the candidate variations for functional testing and to identify the disease-causing variant. My ultimate aim is to unravel the pathological processes leading to autism spectrum disorder at molecular level, and to identify therapeutics that can modulate these processes.

Associate Professor Karen E. Waldie

Karen is a developmental neuropsychologist in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland. Her research focuses on the neural bases, and long-term outcomes, of neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., dyslexia, ASD, ADHD). Her experimental work combines techniques from cognitive neuroscience (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and EEG) and clinical neuropsychology. She is also involved with 3 national longitudinal studies: Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS); Growing Up in NZ; and Auckland Birthweight Collaborative (ABC) Study.

Professor Ian J. Kirk

Ian is a Cognitive Neuroscientist in the School of Psychology, and is an Associate Director of the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. He is interested in connectivity and plasticity in the human brain, and in how these support cognitive processes. He is also interested in differences in cognitive processes (and their neural substrates) in people with a variety of disorders (such as ASD). His experimental work mainly involves brain imaging with structural and functional MRI, and EEG. His work has been supported by grants from the NZ Royal Society (Marsden), the NZ Health Research Council, and the US National Institute of Health.