Professor Michael O'Sullivan

Honorary Professor

Institute for Molecular Bioscience



Professor Michael O’Sullivan is a neuroscientist, neurologist and group leader at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB). His main research interest is the neurobiology of brain injury, with an emphasis on mechanisms of resilience and recovery of the brain after injury. His previous work has developed understanding in two broad areas:

  • The cognitive neuroscience of memory and cognitive control – and how distributed and dynamic networks in the brain support these functions, which are often affected by injury.
  • How injury alters network structure and function leading to symptoms in day-to-day life - and intrinsic mechanisms of neural adaptation that modulate the effect of injury

At the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, O’Sullivan is building a research program on cellular and molecular events that influence adaptation and recovery, including the role of innate immunity and glial cells. This program includes novel approaches to neuroprotection and the role of astrocytes as key regulators of glutamate and neuroinflammation. A major theme is identification of therapeutic targets, and evaluation of disease progression or treatment response in vivo, using advanced human imaging with MRI, PET and novel radiotracers. In addition to his Institute work, O’Sullivan leads clinical and biomarker projects in stroke and traumatic brain injury and is a member of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in vascular mechanisms of cognitive impairment.

The group is at the forefront in the application of advanced techniques to investigate brain structure and function in vivo, including diffusion MRI and tractography, the use of functional MRI and EEG to examine to examine dynamic network interactions, and PET to examine neurochemistry.


Professor O’Sullivan supervises PhD projects across multiple research areas, including clinical science, cognitive neuroscience, animal models and computational neuroscience (such as machine learning and deep learning algorithms for diagnosis and prediction of prognosis). Expressions of interest from potential PhD and honours students are welcome.

Research Impacts

As a practising clinican, Professor O’Sullivan has a strong interest in translation. Through senior roles in health care - such as Director of Research and Implementation at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital - he has been a champion for translation, innovation in health care and health-academic partnerships to deliver better outcomes for patients.

Internationally, he has led efforts to integrate cognition in stroke recovery research (he chaired the Cognition Working Group of the international Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery Roundtable).

Professor O'Sullivan co-chairs the Local Organising Commitee for Brain and Brain PET 2023, a major international meeting to be held in Brisbane.

O'Sullivan is an established independent expert in brain injury in sport and authored an independent review commissioned by the Australian Football League in 2022.


  • Oestreich, Lena K. L., Lo, Jessica W., Di Biase, Maria A., Sachdev, Perminder S., Mok, Alice H., Wright, Paul, Crawford, John D., Lam, Ben, Traykov, Latchezar, Köhler, Sebastian, Staals, Julie E. A., van Oostenbrugge, Robert, Chen, Christopher, Desmond, David W., Yu, Kyung‐Ho, Lee, Minwoo, Klimkowicz‐Mrowiec, Aleksandra, Bordet, Régis, O'Sullivan, Michael J. and Zalesky, Andrew (2024). Network analysis of neuropsychiatric, cognitive, and functional complications of stroke: implications for novel treatment targets. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 78 (4), 229-236. doi: 10.1111/pcn.13633

  • Saks, Danit G., Bajorek, Beata, Catts, Vibeke S., Bentvelzen, Adam C., Jiang, Jiyang, Wen, Wei, Mather, Karen A., Thalamuthu, Anbupalam, Huang-Lung, Jessie, Nivison-Smith, Lisa, Griffiths, Lyn R., Smith, Robert A., Sexton, Adrienne, James, Paul, Jayasena, Tharusha, Poljak, Anne, Hansra, Gurpreet K., Hosoki, Satoshi, Park, Ashley, Hillenbrand, Claudia M., van Wijngaarden, Peter, Chander, Russell J., Humphrey, Sam, Chen, Rory, Kochan, Nicole A., Helman, Tessa J., Levi, Christopher, Brodtmann, Amy, O'Sullivan, Michael J. ... Sachdev, Perminder S. (2024). The protocol for an observational Australian cohort study of CADASIL: The AusCADASIL study. Cerebral Circulation - Cognition and Behavior, 6 100225, 100225. doi: 10.1016/j.cccb.2024.100225

  • Harding, Ian H, Ryan, Joanne, Heritier, Stephane, Spark, Simone, Flanagan, Zachary, McIntyre, Richard, Anderson, Craig S, Naismith, Sharon L, Chong, Trevor T-J, O'Sullivan, Michael, Egan, Gary, Law, Meng and Zoungas, Sophia (2023). STAREE-Mind Imaging Study: a randomised placebo-controlled trial of atorvastatin for prevention of cerebrovascular decline and neurodegeneration in older individuals. BMJ Neurology Open, 5 (2) ARTN e000541, e000541. doi: 10.1136/bmjno-2023-000541

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Book Chapter

  • Werring, David J. and O’Sullivan, Mike (2011). Cerebral microbleeds and cognitive impairment. Cerebral Microbleeds: Pathophysiology to Clinical Practice. (pp. 152-158) Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511974892.020

Journal Article

Conference Publication

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors: