Meet The Researcher

Professor Julie Henry

The University of Queensland, QLD

Let's get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I was born in Scotland in the Shetland Islands, which is also home of the Shetland pony, and recently made quite famous by the television show, ‘Shetland’!
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
I’ve been involved in MS research for more than twenty years. Scotland, where I began my research career, has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, the reasons for which are currently not well understood. I became inspired to get involved in MS research when I learnt that a friend’s brother had been diagnosed with the disorder.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
It’s hard to pick just one, but certainly the ongoing advances in treatment, as well as the greater number of treatment options now available, have been life-changing for many people living with this disorder.
Tell us about your current research project...
The current research project will help us better understand how the ability to make sense of social information is affected by multiple sclerosis. This includes important skills, such as the ability to recognise facial expressions, or to understand what another person is thinking. Most studies to date suggest that people living with this disorder have greater difficulties making sense of a range of different types of social cues. However, a problem with many of the studies that have been used in this literature to date is their reliance on measures which are not true-to-life – such as posed, static facial expressions. The current research project will assess whether people with multiple sclerosis still exhibit difficulties making sense of social information when measures are used that are more true to life.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
This research is important because many studies now show that problems making sense of social information can be linked to poorer overall wellbeing – such as greater feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness. This means that it’s really important to get a clearer understanding of whether people living with multiple sclerosis are more likely to experience these types of difficulties, and if so, what the nature of these difficulties are. This is the critical first step to inform the development of tailored interventions that can help to remediate these difficulties.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
I feel very lucky to be working in the lab, as you get to make genuinely new discoveries, and I work with a wonderful group of researchers and clinicians. Some of the key challenges we face are simply related to time – there is not enough time in the day to do everything we would like to do.
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Julie Henry