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Prof Rhoshel Lenroot with young study participant next to MRI

Empathy MRI study



Why do some young people have a hard time acting as if they care about the feelings of other people, such as getting into fights, breaking rules, or doing things that can hurt others?

Learning to understand how other people feel is an essential part of growing up. For some kids this comes easily, but for others it doesn’t, and can lead to these types of problems.

We are working to understand what parts of the brain help us to recognise and react to other people’s emotions. We are studying this both in healthy boys and in boys who have conduct problems such as frequent arguments, breaking rules, or being aggressive. We are concentrating on boys right now because although both boys and girls can have these kinds of problems, they are more common in boys.

Who can participate? Boys aged 8 through 16 years, either with a history of conduct problems or who have no history of mental health problems.

What happens if your child participates? The study involves having a brain scan (known as a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)) exam) while looking at pictures of people who are showing different emotions. There are also some questionnaires and computer tests. A parent or carer will also be interviewed to get information about medical and mental health history. A link to a website and a video about having an MRI at NeuRA are below.

Participants get a picture of their brain to take home with them, and travel costs and parking are reimbursed.

Why participate? To help us understand how some young people have trouble recognising certain emotions. You will be contributing to research, which may someday help young people who have difficulty processing emotions.

How do I learn more? To participate or for further information contact Dr Jason Bruggemann on (02) 9399 1881 or via email:j.bruggemann@neura.edu.au.

See what’s going on at NeuRA


Own Your Balance

Research investigating the impacts of cognitive behavioural therapy and balance programs on fear of falling, funded by Mindgardens. Falls and fear of falling affect many older people and can impose limitations upon daily activities. Over one third of community dwelling older people fall each year with about 15% of falls being injurious. However, two thirds of older people express a fear of falling during common daily activities, making it more common than falls itself. Fear of falling has been associated with needless restriction in physical and social activities, and subsequent deterioration of health and wellbeing. Previous research has suggested that fear of falling can be reduced through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and balance exercise programs. However, these face-to-face treatments are resource intensive and not readily accessible to people. Furthermore, the effects of these treatments on fear of falling are small and often do not last beyond the duration of the program. By utilising technology and providing tailored physical activity guidance we are aiming to reduce a fear of falling in an accessible, efficient and lasting way. A thee-arm randomised clinical trial will be conducted in 189 community-dwelling older adults with a substantial concern of falling. Participants will be randomly allocated into one of three groups in order to test whether a self-managed CBT intervention, alone or in combination with a graded balance activity program, can reduce concerns about falling in older adults when compared to usual care. We are collaborating with the Black Dog institute to provide a home-based cognitive behavioural therapy program that addresses a fear of falling. We will also be utilising our cutting-edge balance program StandingTall to provide a graded balance program.   Related studies: https://www.neura.edu.au/project/reducing-fear-of-falling-and-activity-avoidance-in-older-adults-with-disproportionate-levels-of-fear-of-falling/ https://www.neura.edu.au/project/standingtall-plus-a-multifactorial-program-to-prevent-falls-in-older-people/ https://www.neura.edu.au/project/standing-tall/