Helping Our Community to Flourish

HELPING the North's soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder find better relief will be among the primary areas for research for a new charity being launched in Townsville.

General Peter Cosgrove, who helped the region recover from Cyclone Larry in 2006, is leading a consortium to establish the Tropical Brain and Mind Research Foundation on Monday.

The institute, so far without a fixed address or any funds, aims to identify projects that provide the best hope of improving the effects of brain and mind disorders, and raising financial support for these projects.

Other members within the consortium include Sydney Brain and Mind Institute director Professor Maxwell Bennett, The Cairns Institute acting director Professor Sue McGinty, Catholic Education Office Townsville director Dr Cathy Day and James Cook University Indigenous Australian Studies chairwoman Professor Yvonne Cadet-James.

Dr Day described the new foundation as a "brains trust" of people dedicated to finding solutions to some poorly understood areas of research.

"Whilst we have a focus in the North, and I guess the energy is coming out of Townsville, we see it as maybe looking at the whole of Australia as a particular focus for people doing the research," she said.

Among the first projects the foundation will target include researching post-traumatic stress syndrome, and foetal alcohol syndrome.

Prof McGinty believed far too many people across northern Australia suffered from traumatic stress.

"The research into this has shown that the brain has a lot of plasticity, meaning it can change," she said.

"What we want to know is do intervention programs actually heal and assist people in adjusting to life after traumatic stress?"

Dr Day said researchers working in these areas were often constrained by the funding behind them.

"I think the whole area of brain research is really becoming the future," she said.

"With new technologies of brain imaging and the new knowledge around the plasticity of the brain and early intervention potential now, I think we're right on the cusp of moving into an era where diseases of the brain that would have been considered incurable, if you like, are getting to the point where they can be cured."

The foundation has not yet started raising money, but will launch an appeal next week. It will also be asking organisations wanting to implement suitable projects to seek support.