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The Australian National University

Dr Moyra Mortby

BSc, MSc, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
ANU College of Health and Medicine
T: +61 2 6125 8413

Areas of expertise

  • Psychology 1701
  • Developmental Psychology And Ageing 170102
  • Psychological Methodology, Design And Analysis 170110
  • Psychology Not Elsewhere Classified 170199

Research interests

  • Cognitive decline and dementia
  • Neuropsychiatric Symptoms of Dementia (also referred to as Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia)
  • Mild Behavioural Impairment
  • Social and care aspects of dementia


Dr Moyra Mortby is an NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow at the Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing (CRAHW), The Australian National University. She was awarded her PhD with Laudatio Magna Cum Laude from the University of Zurich, Switzerland for her research on apathy and depression in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, and completed her MSc in Research Methods in Psychology and BSc in Criminology and Psychology both at Keele University, UK.

Dr Mortby joined CRAHW in 2011 as a post-doctoral research fellow to work on a Dementia Collaborative Research Centre – Early Diagnosis and Prevention project to work on the ANDI project. As part of this project she studied the use of normative structural imaging databases to assess brain ageing across the adult lifespan. She has since also held an Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation Fellowship. This fellowship focused on the investigation of neuropsychiatric symptoms in pre-clinical stages of dementia. Dr Mortby is the recipient of the 2015 New Investigator Award by the International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment (ISTAART) and the Neuropsychiatric Syndromes in Neurodegenerative Diseases Professional Interest Area.

Dr Mortby has driven the development of a research program on neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia at CRAHW, leading a number of research projects investigating neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia and pre-clinical stages of dementia, both in community-based and residential care settings. Her research interests cover behavioural, social and care aspects of dementia.

Researcher's projects

Dr Moyra Mortby is currently leads the following projects investigating BPSD:

  • BPSDPLUS: A person-centred approach to managing behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia in residential care Rates of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) amongst people living in residential aged care facilities (RACF) are high. Over 90% of Australian aged care residents exhibit clinically significant BPSD. Physical aggression, agitation and disinhibition, especially when severe, are difficult to manage and can put patients, carers and other residents at risk. Management of BPSD has recently become a focus of attention for the Australian Government, especially in relation to inappropriate overprescribing of antipsychotics. The discrepancy between international and national recommendations and the continued over-prescription of medication to manage BPSD must be addressed. Australia urgently needs better programs to support RACF to implement non-pharmacological, cost-effective management programs.
  • Behavioural Symptoms in Dementia (BeSyDe) It is estimated that 1.2 million Australians are currently caring for someone with dementia. Caring for somebody with dementia can become more complicated by the presence of behavioural problems (e.g. depression, anxiety, apathy, aggression) in the person with dementia. These behavioural problems can contribute significantly to carer burden and distress. This study aims to improve our understanding of how interactions between the carer and the care-recipient affect behavioural problems in dementia. A better understanding of these interactions will help us develop programmes which can be used to assist the carer and those suffering from dementia to minimise the negative impact of problem behaviours in dementia.
  • Apathy in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Clinically Normal elderly: a biomarker of and risk factor for brain structure, cognitive trajectories and apathetic symptom progression? This project investigates whether apathy in people who do not meet the clinical criteria for dementia is associated with changes to brain structures and whether these brain structures can help us to better understand how 1) apathy contributes to the risk of developing dementia; 2) treatment of apathy can be improved; and 3) the personal, emotional, social and financial burden of apathy can be reduced. A better understanding may provide a useful biomarker for earlier and more accurate AD diagnosis, improved understanding of apathetic symptom progression, and apathy-related increased dementia risk.

Available student projects

I am interested in supervising HDR, Masters or PhD students with research interests in behavioural, social and care aspects of dementia, both in community-based and residential care settings. My research program draws both on primary data collection projects and secondary data analysis of longitudinal population based studies (e.g. PATH, ADAMS).

Potential candidates interested in this field of research are invited to contact me to discuss possible projects.

Current student projects

  • Efficacy of non-pharmacological interventions to reduce
    neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia – a systematic review.


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  19 June 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers