Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)

The Neurological Foundation uses a peer-review system to evaluate research applications. Although the Foundation’s National Council makes the final decisions regarding allocation of funds for research they rely heavily on expert advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). The 12-member SAC is composed of clinical neurologists and neurosurgeons, psychologists and neuroscientists, each with vast research experience, plus a representative from the National Council, and the Council chairman.

All members of the SAC review all applications to the Foundation and individual SAC members prepare a detailed report on one or two Project and/or Small Project (under $10,000) applications that fall within their area of expertise. Each project application is also reviewed and scored by at least five independent experts in the relevant field (usually from overseas) and their comments are factored into the SAC members’ report. Small Project applications are not externally reviewed.

At the twice-yearly SAC meetings reports on the individual proposals are presented and debated and a vote is taken to accept or reject the application. If the majority is in favour of funding the research project each SAC member then scores the application according to the view of its merit and these scores are used to rank the research proposals. When all applications have been considered they are listed in order of merit and the amount required to fund the approved applications is reviewed in light of the funds allocated for the research round. It is usually necessary to draw a line if the cost of approved research exceeds the budget available. In this way the Neurological Foundation ensures that the money available is used to fund only the best neuroscience research.

The first Scientific Advisory Committee meeting was held in Wellington on 3 July 1972. Eight people interested in neuroscience were present. Three research projects were approved and grants totaling $12,500 (worth around $100,000 today) were awarded.

Current Scientific Advisory Committee Members

  • Mr Peter Gilbert



  • Associate Professor Cathy Stinear

    Department of Medicine, Universtiy of Auckland

    Research interest: Developing techniques for predicting and promoting recovery of function after stroke. These techniques include non-invasive brain stimulation and coordinated movement patterns to prime the brain for a more plastic response to therapy and are currently being tested in clinical trials with people at the sub-acute and chronic stage of stroke


  • Dr Melanie McConnell

    Senior Lecturer in Genetics

    Dr McConnell’s primary research focus is to understand how cancer cells survive stress, and to apply this knowledge to the development of more effective cancer therapies.

  • Dr Debbie Mason

    Consultant neurologist

    Dr Debbie Mason practices as a general neurologist with a specialist interest in multiple sclerosis clinical care and research.

  • Dr E Scott Graham


    Dr Graham's research is focused on understanding the cellular interplay between the immune system and the central nervous system and the involvement of the blood brain barrier in health and neuroinflammatory disease.  

  • Professor Brian Hyland

    Department of Physiology, School of Medical Science, University of Otago

    Research interests:
    • Neurophysiology of midbrain dopamine systems and pathways which modulate dopamine neuron activity.
    • Effects of abnormal dopamine activity such as occurs in Parkinson's disease on activity in the motor control pathways

  • Dr Liana Machado

    Department of Psychology, University of Otago

    Research interest:Strategic control over reflexes and attention in both normal individuals and patients with unilateral brain damage

  • Professor Paul Smith

    Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Otago

    Research interest: Vestibular/auditory neuroscience and more generally molecular and neurochemical approaches to lesion-induced plasticity in the central nervous system; biochemical, pharmacological, electrophysiological or behavioural methods which look at the mechanisms of neural damage

  • Dr Jennifer Pereira

    Neurologist, Auckland City Hospital

    Research interest: Neuroimmunology and in particular multiple sclerosis 

  • Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie


    Dr Parr-Brownlie’s research focuses on the neural mechanisms that underlie voluntary movements and the movement deficits of Parkinson's disease.

Scientific Secretary

  • Dr Douglas Ormrod

    Research Manager

Medical Adviser

  • Dr Jon Simcock