Prof Rhoshel Lenroot with young study participant next to MRI

Empathy MRI study

RESEARCH STUDY

EMPATHY: AN MRI STUDY OF EMOTION PROCESSING IN BOYS WITH AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR

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.

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Abdominal muscle stimulation to improve bowel function in spinal cord injury

Bowel complications, resulting from impaired bowel function, are common for people living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). As a result, people with a SCI have high rates of bowel related illness, even compared with those with other neurological disorders. This includes high rates of abdominal pain, constipation, faecal incontinence and bloating. These problems lower the quality of life of people with a SCI and place a financial burden on the health system. A treatment that improves bowel function for people with a SCI should reduce illness, improve quality of life and lead to a large cost saving for health care providers. Bowel problems have traditionally been managed with manual and pharmacological interventions, such as digital rectal stimulation, enemas, and suppositories. These solutions are usually only partially effective, highlighting the need for improved interventions. The abdominal muscles are one of the major muscle groups used during defecation. Training the abdominal muscles should improve bowel function by increasing abdominal pressure. During our previous Abdominal FES research with people with a SCI, we observed that Abdominal FES appeared to lead to more consistent and effective bowel motion. However, this evidence remains anecdotal. As such, we are going to undertake a large randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of Abdominal FES to improve the bowel function of people with a SCI. This study will make use of a novel measurement system (SmartPill, Medtronic) that can be swallowed to measure whole gut and colonic transit time. We will also assess whether Abdominal FES can change constipation-related quality of life and the use of laxatives and manual procedures, as well as the frequency of defecation and the time taken. A positive outcome from this study is likely to lead to the rapid clinical translation of this technology for people living with a SCI.
PROJECT