Dublin Neurological Institute: Research Innovation and education

16 May 2023

The Dublin neurological institute focuses primarily on research and treatment of neurological disease including Parkinson’s disease, Stroke, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Headache, Neuropathy, Myopathy and Muscular dystrophy as well as innovative treatment options such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). We are a charity organisation, registered in Ireland. Dublin Neurological Institute is the latest member to join our ECHAlliance global network

The Dublin Neurological Institute at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital is a registered charity,  and a Centre of Excellence for the care of patients with neurological disease.  Based in a renovated Georgian house in the heart of Dublin City, the interdisciplinary team at the DNI provides care to over 5,500 people from all over Dublin and Ireland. The team is made up of  a wide range of disciplines including doctors, clinical nurse specialists, physiotherapist, occupational therapists and psychologists,  who treat a variety of conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease,  Stroke, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Headache, Neuropathy, Myopathy and Muscular dystrophy. While patient care is at the core of the DNI, all aspects of care are underpinned by research, innovation, training, and education.

One major proponent of patient care is research- to discover new biomarkers, investigate unique symptoms and assess the efficacy of new treatment options. Through collaborations with both national and international, academic and industry partners, the DNI carry out  numerous research projects into aspects of gait, eye tracking, and genetic biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease and neurodegenerative disorders. The DNI is currently leading an investigation into the feasibility of eye movements as a diagnostic or prognostic marker of Parkinson’s disease or other Parkinson’s related conditions. Through collaborations with the school of Biomedical Engineering, Trinity College Dublin, the DNI are also conducting studies to determine the impact of cognitive load on static and dynamic movement in Parkinson’s Disease and related conditions, using new technology and wearable sensors. Similarly, investigators in the DNI are working with in the school of medicine of University College Dublin, to investigate the differences in symptoms of people with variants in the PRKN/PARK2 (Parkin) gene compared to those who have gene-negative early onset Parkinson’s disease. Through the Institute’s weekly Movement Disorder Clinic’s there is a large cohort of people with Parkinson’s disease actively involved in research projects.

Throughout the clinical and research aspects of the DNI, there is a constant drive towards innovation. One such example of this innovation at the intersection of research and treatments is an on-going study which pairs people with Parkinson’s Disease with Assistive Dogs. This study aims to evaluate the benefits of assistive animal therapy in the treatment of gait issues, such as freezing of gait, which often accompany Parkinson’s disease. To date one have been matched with their assistive Dogs and with a view to involving two more by the end of 2023. Similarly, in collaboration with Beaumont hospital, Dublin, the DNI was among the first in Ireland to offer advanced therapies such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). Since the establishment of this All Ireland DBS service in 2021 to the end of 2023, over 110 patients will have received DBS and treatment in Ireland. 

To enhance patient care, these innovative research findings and treatment options transfer to clinicals application through continual training and education.  The DNI  provides training and education for all stages of medical careers, while also hosting educational and outreach programmes, to spread awareness of neurological conditions to all ages, and professions. The book ‘Something to Think About’ was recently published through the DNI with the aim to introduce children to the wonders of the brain and mind and cultivate their curiosity, while the annual ‘Parkinson’s Disease Masterclass’, provides a more in-depth discussion of the latest advances in treatments and research, open to patients, clinicians, researchers, and members of the public. Through university collaborations the DNI supports students, not only those pursuing a career in medicine, but also students of biomedical engineering, neuroscience and computer science. While gaining experience in a clinical environment provides a unique perspective on challenges of faced by healthcare providers, hosting students from diverse backgrounds also allows for the cross pollination of ideas, and cultivates innovative solutions for complex clinical and operational issues. 

This combination of research, innovation and education, along with a multidisciplinary collaborators, ensures the DNI stays at the forefront of treatment and care, ensuring  better outcomes for patients and their families. 

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