Digitally created image of inner ear

Vestibular

RESEARCH STUDY

IMPROVING CLINICAL TESTS OF VESTIBULAR (BALANCE) FUNCTION

We are seeking healthy individuals aged 40 years and over for a study aiming to improve clinical tests of vestibular (balance) function. By investigating and optimising current recording techniques our research seeks to advance the identification of disease or impairment in older subjects, and this is of particular importance as the normal effects of aging often obstruct underlying balance issues. Our study uses non-invasive techniques to record muscle activity (using skin surface electrodes) in response to brief stimulation of the balance organs.

To be considered, participants must have:

  • no history of inner ear pathology (dizziness or vertigo) that required hospitalization
  • no neurological illness
  • no conductive hearing loss

Participants will be asked to undergo a single session of testing that will take place at the Prince of Wales hospital. The study lasts for approximately 1 to 1.5 hrs. Interested participants can contact Danielle Dennis (d.dennis@neura.edu.au) or Sendhil Govender (s.govender@neura.edu.au) for further information or ring 93822430. Participants can be reimbursed up to a value of $50 for any travel or parking expenses incurred during their visit.

See what’s going on at NeuRA

FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

Spinal Cord Injury Breakthrough

Researchers from NeuRA, the University of New South Wales
the University of Sydney,
and HammondCare have found surviving sensory spinal nerve connections in 50 per cent of people living with complete thoracic spinal cord injuries. The study, which is part of
a decade-long collaboration between the researchers, used cutting-edge functional MRI (fMRI) technology to record neural response to touch. It was  Dr Sylvia Gustin who analysed the fMRI images to identify the moment the patient’s brain registered the touch. “Seeing the brain light up to touch shows that despite the complete injury to the thoracic spine, somatosensory pathways have been preserved,” explains Dr Gustin. “It’s fascinating that although the patients did not ‘feel’ the big toe stimulation in the experiment, we were able to detect a significant signal in response to the touch in the brain’s primary and secondary somatosensory cortices, the thalamus, and the cerebellum.” For those living with a complete spinal cord injury this means, despite previously believing
the communication to the brain had been severed in the injury, messages are still being received. Dr Gustin describes this new category of spinal cord injury as ‘discomplete’ “The current classification system is flawed. It only contains two types of spinal cord injury – complete and incomplete,” says Dr Gustin. “It is important we acknowledge there is a third category – the ‘discomplete’ injury, only then we can provide better treatment regimens for the many sufferers of a complete spinal cord injury.” For those newly classified as ‘discomplete’, this discovery opens up new opportunities to identify those people living with a spinal cord injury that are more likely to benefit from treatments aimed at improving sensation and movement. Because of this study, research participant, James Stanley, now knows he belongs to a new category. “It is exciting to know that there
is a connection there, that my toe is trying to say hello to my brain,” says James. “If medical professionals can work to identify people like me with a ‘discomplete’ injury earlier, perhaps they can find new treatments and rehabilitation techniques. “The thought that one day I might be able to feel the sand between my toes again, or the waves wash over my feet gives me hope. It’s something Dr Gustin’s discovery has made possible.”
PROJECT