Here at the MARCS Institute we are transforming the understanding of the human brain and its complex processes - from birth through to old age - so we can better care for and nurture and maintain its cognitive performance as it develops, and understand how it combats stress, diseases, and disorders as we age.

From the beginnings of speech in babies to the subtle early warning signs of dementia, the MARCS Institute’s comprehensive research into the “normal” workings of the brain sheds new light on a myriad of vital processes.

We’ve assembled teams comprised of linguists, psychologists, data and artificial intelligence (AI) scientists, and software, electronic and neuromorphic engineers, and to understand the brain function and how we can use emerging technology to transform early diagnosis and intervention to improve treatment and outcomes.

Our capability in health research is enabling us to:

  • Create more effective interventions for conditions like autism and dementia by developing tools and techniques to deliver early diagnosis.
  • Provide a greater quality of life in aged care by producing evidence-based treatments and therapies.
  • Improve outcomes for patients and healthcare professionals through the development of a range of wearable devices and sensors to diagnose and monitor medical conditions and to support training for healthcare workers.
  • Help partners analyse their big data to extract meaningful insights to improve decision making.
  • Inform the development of new technologies by ensuring the latest knowledge in brain development across the lifespan is incorporated into products.

Our unique approach

Our researchers have spent decades unravelling the complexities of the human brain and how humans interact with the world.

Our research is grounded in real-world problems with a focus on practical applications. We work closely with clinicians, government and industry partners to use sensors, high-tech imaging and medical devices to address needs across linguistics, cognitive function, neuroscience and vision and touch.

Our location at Westmead in western Sydney affords our partners an opportunity to engage with a culturally and linguistically diverse population, and to focus on projects that drive accessible innovations in healthcare.

We are highly collaborative and committed to ensuring our research makes a meaningful and impactful contribution to people’s health.

Our fields of interest

Our deep understanding of how the brain functions means we are uniquely positioned to inform both research and the commercial applications of health research. Our fields of interest are:

  • Human brain development: Understanding how a healthy human brain develops and changes from birth through to old age.
  • Sensors and imaging: Developing advanced technology to record and assess the brain and biological systems, facilitating a better understanding of how the human body develops, interacts with and processes tactile, visual and auditory information. It also sheds light on how humans interact with each other and with technology.
  • Information processing: Exploring how humans naturally process data, and the impact of factors like illness and technology. This has applications for defence and managing the implications of stress and pressure.
  • Memory: Understanding how the human brain retains information. This research is vital in managing the disease process in patients with dementia, by enabling early diagnosis and developing effective therapies.

Impact built on collaboration

While our fundamental research into understanding the human brain is essential for transforming healthcare in the long-term, we also have a strong focus on translational research.

We are working closely with collaborators to identify and solve real-world challenges  including:

  • Creating BraincubatorTM – a unique recovery incubation system that controls the environment for acute brain slices (a widely used lab model of brain tissue for investigating the mechanisms underlying neuronal damage from lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain). It extends slice lifespan from six to >36 hours, providing viable tissue for two experimental days, reducing the time spent preparing brain slices and dramatically reducing the number of animals sacrificed.
  • Developing a non-invasive haemodynamic monitor for rapid, cost-effective assessment of peripheral vascular function which dramatically shortens the time to diagnosis and intervention, and radically improves the prognosis of affected patients.
  • Development of a unique, standalone, wearable stimulator, HEXAS, which was the basis of a recent partnership with US-based Soterix Medical for a NASA SBIR opportunity funded in 2021.
  • Developing, in conjunction with registrars and trainee surgeons at Liverpool Hospital, ‘Smart Gloves’ that can record experienced surgeons’ hand movements and provide trainees with feedback on how to replicate skilled movement.

Our research in action

Across MARCS, we are engaged with hundreds of research projects at any given time. MARCS research projects aim to have a profound impact in their particular field and often involve collaboration with local and international researchers. You can explore our current projects in Health here.