Coulson Lab - Neurotrophins in Alzheimer’s Disease

My lab is currently focusing on the reasons why cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain die in Alzheimer’s disease, what contribution their loss makes to cognitive decline and whether manipulating neurotrophic signalling  (NGF, BDNF, TrkA/B, p75) can protect or restore cognitive function, and what role the neurotrophins play in the normal function of these neurons.

The lab is supported by:

  • National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC)
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK
  • Clem Jones Centre for Aging Dementia Research (CJCADR)
  • Mason Foundation (Perpetual Trustees)



  • May, Linda M., Anggono, Victor, Gooch, Helen M., Jang, Se E., Matusica, Dusan, Kerbler, Georg M., Meunier, Frederic A., Sah, Pankaj and Coulson, Elizabeth J. (2017) G-protein-coupled inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channel activation by the p75 neurotrophin receptor is required for amyloid beta toxicity. Frontiers in Neuroscience11 455: . doi:10.3389/fnins.2017.00455
  • Coulson, Elizabeth J. and Bartlett, Perry F. (2017) An exercise path to preventing Alzheimer's disease : An Editorial Highlight on 'Exercise and BDNF reduce Ab production by enhancing alpha-secretase processing of APP'. Journal of Neurochemistry142 2: 191-193. doi:10.1111/jnc.14038
  • Turnbull, Marion T. and Coulson, Elizabeth J. (2017) Cholinergic basal forebrain lesion decreases neurotrophin signaling without affecting tau hyperphosphorylation in genetically susceptible mice. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease,55 3: 1141-1154. doi:10.3233/JAD-160805
  • Matusica, D., Alfonsi, F., Turner, B. J., Butler, T. J., Shepheard, S. R., Rogers, M. L., Skeldal, S., Underwood, CK., Mangelsdorf, M &  Coulson, E. J. (2016). Inhibition of motor neuron death in vitro and in vivo by a p75 neurotrophin receptor intracellular domain fragment. J Cell Sci, 129(3), 517-530. 
  • Kerbler, G. M., Nedelska, Z., Fripp, J., Laczo, J., Vyhnalek, M., Lisy, J., Hamlin, AS., Rose, S., Hort J. & Coulson, E. J. (2015). Basal Forebrain Atrophy Contributes to Allocentric Navigation Impairment in Alzheimer's Disease Patients. Front Aging Neurosci, 7, 185. 
  • Kerbler, G. M., Fripp, J., Rowe, C. C., Villemagne, V. L., Salvado, O., Rose, S. & Coulson, EJ. Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging, I. (2015). Basal forebrain atrophy correlates with amyloid beta burden in Alzheimer's disease. Neuroimage Clin, 7, 105-113. 
  • Coulson, E. J., & Andersen, O. M. (2015). The A-B-C for SORting APP. J Neurochem, 135(1), 1-3. 
  • Matusica, D., & Coulson, E. J. (2014). Local versus long-range neurotrophin receptor signalling: endosomes are not just carriers for axonal transport. Semin Cell Dev Biol, 31, 57-63. 
  • Edwards, S. R., Hamlin, A. S., Marks, N., Coulson, E. J., & Smith, M. T. (2014). Comparative studies using the Morris water maze to assess spatial memory deficits in two transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol, 41(10), 798-806. doi: 10.1111/1440-1681.12277
  • Boskovic, Z., Alfonsi, F., Rumballe, B. A., Fonseka, S., Windels, F., & Coulson, E. J. (2014). The role of p75NTR in cholinergic basal forebrain structure and function. J Neurosci, 34(39), 13033-13038. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2364-14.2014
  • D Matusica, S Skeldal, AM Sykes, N Palstra, A Sharma, EJ Coulson (2013) An intracellular domain fragment of the p75 neurotrophin receptor enhances TrkA receptor function. Journal of Biological Chemistry 288:11144-54.

We are currently recruiting mid-year Honours and HDR students for projects relating to Alzheimer’s Disease, including those mentioned below. Please send your CV to Bree Rumballe for review.

  • Project 1: The role of cleavage of p75 neurotrophin receptor in neurotrophic function (cell biology)
  • Project 2: The role of neurotrophins in regulating the synaptic function of cholinergic basal forebrain neurons (mouse studies: electrophysiology, behaviour, fMRI, in vivo genetic manipulation)
  • Project 3: Studying basal forebrain function in Alzheimer’s disease and sleep apnea (human MRI and PET analysis)
  • Project 4: Developing optimised peptides for treating neurotrophic dysfunction in neurodegenerative disease (biochemistry)

Sleep apnea study

Professor Coulson’s team are researching what factors makes sleep disruption a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. They are beginning a study that will follow patients aged 55 to 75 with sleep apnoea over an extended period, to determine whether using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) ventilator, which keeps airways open during sleep, protects against brain degeneration and lowers the risk of dementia.

See the flyer for more information regarding the clinical trial and/or email

Sterling's Dream

Professor Coulson and colleagues, Dr Eamon Eeles (The Prince Charles Hospital) and Professor Stephen Rose (CSIRO), are involved in research studying what factors make the gold standard drugs for Alzheimer's disease more likely to be effective. Information on this study (Sterling’s Dream) can be found here

Find out more about our research environment and how to apply to do a short or long-term research project with us.