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An Update on Neurosurgery Research

Tuesday 12 April 2016 4:45pm

In January 2013 after almost three years of public campaigning and fundraising The Neurological Foundation and the University of Otago were able to establish a neurosurgery research and teaching unit in Dunedin Hospital. As part of the new unit three neurosurgeons were hired, with one sitting as the chair of neurosurgery. Professor Dirk De Ridder wasn’t aware of the controversy surrounding this new role at the time of his appointment, and he hasn’t let it impact his effectiveness. In the past three years he’s made strides in further developing a brain implant to treat alcohol addiction, a non-invasive feedback treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, reconditioning the reward systems of people with obesity, and developing research around tinnitus treatments.

In moving to Dunedin Prof De Ridder traded the fast paced and highly connected lifestyle of Central Europe for a more leisurely and collaborative culture, but which does he prefer? While he admits that there are some benefits to the former, his preference is definitely for the kiwi culture. When you take the time to carefully complete your work, Prof De Ridder believes, it produces a better product. His colleagues and patients would agree. The impact of his brain implants alone have been huge, life changing for those who received them and for their families. While in New Zealand Prof De Ridder has completed implants in three people, all of whom have now ceased their compulsive drinking.

His non-invasive treatments for Alzheimer’s and obesity are currently in the works, but Prof De Ridder is optimistic about their potential for success. He believes that by using EEG, a scanning technique which reads the activity of the surface of the brain, clinicians can pinpoint where the brain is going wrong and retrain it. It’s simple in principal, but would be greatly impactful if proven successful.

There is a lot of work left to do, and Prof De Ridder is happy to do it if given the chance. His current contract would give him just two more years in the position, but he is clear that he’d be keen to stay on. We’re excited to see what he will do with his remaining time and are sure that however he chooses to focus that time will significantly benefit Dunedin as a whole.


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