MS and Comorbidities Team

Research Overview

This group  is interested in researching  interventions for disabling symptoms of MS. Current projects include the development of novel treatments for arm shaking (tremor) in MS and the implementation of a computerized monitoring tool to detect cognitive (memory) changes in MS.

Tremor, or arm shaking, can affect up to 60% of people with MS and no established treatments are available.  Our group is conducting a randomized controlled, double-blinded, study of the efficacy of botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections for MS tremor using technology developed by the Bionics institute, University of Melbourne.  The group is interested in brain network changes and this is being studied using advanced functional imaging paradigms in collaboration with neuroimaging scientists at the University of Melbourne.  Part of this work focuses on determining what factors can predict a good response to Botox injections so that the people who will benefit the most can be selected while those who will not benefit as much can be prevented from unecessary interventions and side effects.

An additional developing interest is the measurement and detection of speech abnormalities in MS through an collaboration with the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the University of Melbourne. We aim to test novel technology that can measure subtle changes in speech patterns in order to develop an understanding of the relationship between changes in speech patterns and future disability in MS, particularly cerebellar problems.

A further project of the group involves a collaboration with the Department of Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne.  This project aims to study changes in gait patterns and balance in people with MS where significant walking problems have not yet occurred.  The study is being conducted in the technologically advcanced gait laboratory (MOVElab under the direction of Prof. Mary Galea) at the Royal Park Campus of Royal Melbourne Hospital. The group is expanding their work into functional imaging and brain network changes by including a neuroimaging protocll using the 7T MRI scanner at the University of Melbourne.

An important ongoing project, is the implementation of a computerized cognitive test using a purpose-specific website, The software was made available by Neurability ( and was adapted for the website by A/Prof David Derby from the Florey institute of Neuroscience.  The testing platform allows neurologists to quickly test a person with MS' reaction speed and working memory and results are immedialtely availble.  The test is also available for self-testing allowing people with MS to test themselves at home. The goal of this study is to develop a monitoring tool that can provide information about cognitive deterioration very early in people with MS that can then help guide decisions about treatment changes as well as direct people to appropriate resources that can aide cognition. Our previous work has shown that the tests are more sensitive than research-type cognitive tests (the PASAT) to detect changes over 12 months.  In collaboration with Box Hill Hospital and the MSBase group, we plan to implement msreactor in large groups of people with MS.


  • Mr. Daniel Merlo, Research assistant
  • Dr. Thushara Perera, Biomechanical engineer
  • Dr. Gustavo Noffs, Research Assistant
  • Dr. Camille Shanahan, Neuro-imaging scientist


  • Dr Andrew Evans, Movement disorders Unit, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne
  • Dr Thushara Perera, The Bionics institute, Universoty of Melbourne
  • Dr Scott Kolbe, Neuro-imaging group, Melbourne Brain Centre, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Adam Vogel, The Department of Audiology and Speech pathology, University of Melbourne
  • Prof. Mary Galea, The Department of Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne
  • Prof. Helmut Butzkueven, MS Research Unit, Box Hill Hospital
  • A/Prof David Darby, Behavioural Neurosciences, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health


  • This team is funded by the NHMRC for their work in Tremor in MS. The Botox for the MS tremor study is provided unconditioanlly by Allergan Australia.
  • The msreactor project is being supported by the MS Research Unit, Eastern Health as well as Novartis through an unconditional research grant.

Research Outcomes

  1. Van der Walt A, Stankovich J, Rubio J, Foote S, Bahlo M, Van der Mei IAF, Taylor BV, Kilpatrick TJ, Butzkueven H. Heterogeneity at the HLA-DRB1 locus does not influence multiple sclerosis disease severity, brain atrophy or cognition. Multiple Sclerosis 2010; 17(3): 344-352
  2. Van der Walt A, Marriott M, Kolbe, S, Gresle, M, Butzkueven H, Kilpatrick TJ.  Neuroprotection in multiple sclerosis: a therapeutic challenge for the next decade. Pharmacology & Therapeutics 126 (2010) 82–93
  3. Van der Walt A, Stankovich J, Rubio J, Foote S, Bahlo M, Van der Mei IAF, Taylor BV, Kilpatrick TJ, Butzkueven H.  The ApoE polymorphism does not predict MS severity, cognition or cerebral atropy. Neurology 2009; 73:1018-1026.
  4. Van der Walt A, Kolbe SC, Mitchell PJ, Wang Y, Butzkueven H, Egan GF, Yiannikas C, Graham S, Kilpatrick TJ, Klistorner A. Parallel changes in structural and functional measures of optic nerve myelination after optic neuritis. PLoS ONE 2015

Research Projects

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Dr Anneke van der Walt

Department / Centre

Medicine and Radiology

Unit / Centre

MS and Comorbidities Team

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