Innovative New Brain Study Will Benefit Whānau

08 Jun 2022

New Funding Announcement

Text image that says new funding announcment. TeTe Roro: A Mātauranga Māori study. A project to explore a holistic view of Māori brain health and wellbeing utilising kaupapa Māori methods. The two logos of Ageing Well and Te Atawhai o Te Ao are represented at the bottom.

Two organisations committed to doing science differently – Ageing Well National Science Challenge and Te Atawhai o Te Ao – are pleased to announce a new collaboration to study Māori brain health.

Te Roro: A Mātauranga Māori study is a research project that approaches brain health in a holistic way, placing emphasis on mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), and being led by Māori for the benefit of Māori. It will draw on traditional sources such as whakairo (carvings), karakia (prayers and incantations), mōteatea (chanted song-poetry), and other sources to understand how Māori view brain health and well-being.

Most research in New Zealand has contributed to western frameworks and treatments for brain conditions such as dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodiversity. In contrast, Māori have a holistic view of health and Te Roro seeks to address this, utilising kaupapa Māori methods to explore brain health and well-being. The research team includes mātauranga Māori experts who are embedded and trusted in the communities they serve.

“Te Roro is a unique opportunity for two organisations, Ageing Well and Te Atawhai o Te Ao, to build on our strengths and collaborate in world-class brain research that directly addresses the inequality Māori face in the health and medical system,” said Ageing Well Director, Associate Professor Louise Parr-Brownlie. 

“We are proud to facilitate a strong partnership where we are making a difference in the lives of whānau Māori, both now and in the future.”

Te Atawhai o Te Ao, an independent Māori institute for health and environment, will lead this research, utilising their extensive knowledge and networks to facilitate a merging of Indigenous knowledge and western science.

“This is a unique piece of work due to the Māori specific lens being used in the approach. Te Atawhai o Te Ao are looking forward to the opportunity provided by the Ageing Well National Science Challenge to undertake this research utilising our narratives to provide new context in this space,” said Dr Rāwiri Tinirau, Director of Te Atawhai o Te Ao and Principal Investigator of Te Roro.

The long term outcome of Te Roro study is to empower whānau Māori to maintain or improve brain health throughout their lifespans. The research aims to contribute to a revival of mātauranga Māori on the brain, as well as conceptualisations and re-conceptualisations of the brain and the body from a mātauranga Māori perspective.

Ageing Well Co-Director, Professor David Baxter, is buoyed by the collaboration’s opportunity to disseminate information and findings in numerous ways.

“This innovative research study puts traditional Māori methods, such as wānanga, whakairo, and whaikōrero, on an even footing with the outputs of western academic science, such as publications and reports,” said Professor Baxter.

“We are excited that the opportunity to pursue these avenues of research for both Ageing Well and Te Atawhai o Te Ao will generate knowledge to inform and improve the lives of all New Zealanders.”

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