Recent scholarship recipient and PhD student Rebecca Ong is investigating repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and its role as a promising intervention for maintaining a healthy brain.  

Rebecca is a member of the Brain Plasticity Research group at UWA and Perron Institute, led by Associate Professor Jenny Rodger.   

Last year, she completed her Honours (First Class) project, supervised by Dr Alex Tang (Brain Plasticity Research at UWA and Perron Institute) and Dr Andrew Stevenson (UWA and Fiona Wood Foundation).  

There is growing evidence of chronic impairments developing in the nervous system after a burn.   

“My Honours project was the first to highlight genetic changes within the brain after a burn injury, providing preliminary evidence of long-lasting maladaptive changes occurring across different cortical regions,” Rebecca said.   

“These results provide the basis for further investigation of the brain as a potential target to mitigate neurological impacts that burn patients face years after injury.   

“My honours experience was thoroughly fulfilling and gave me an insight into the challenges and excitement of undertaking a research project. It helped me realise my desire to continue pursuing my studies in neuroscience.    

“I am grateful for the support of my supervisors, Dr Tang and Dr Stevenson. I also wish to acknowledge the Brain Plasticity and Burn Injury Research groups for their support and encouragement.”  

Rebecca’s PhD supervisors are Dr Tang and A/Professor Rodger.  

“As we age, the ability of our brains to adapt to different stimuli – also known as neural plasticity – is significantly impaired. The risk of developing neurological conditions is greater, as is the need for interventions,” she said.   

“It is unclear why current rTMS treatments are not always effective. My PhD aims to investigate the effects of different protocols using next-generation sequencing technologies, including spatial transcriptomics (technology to analyse gene expression data in intact tissue samples), to better understand how rTMS can be optimally targeted as a treatment.”    

Rebecca is a recipient of the Australian Rotary Health/Gail and Bryan PhD Scholarship and the Perron Institute’s Byron Kakulas Prestige Scholarship.  

Congratulations, Rebecca!