Digitally created image of brain in skull



FTD and MND research group

ForeFront is a collaborative research group in Australia dedicated to the study of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neurone disease (MND).

FTD and MND are a group of disorders identified by distinct clinical signs and symptoms, and/or specific brain pathologies. These disorders are generally rapidly progressing, cause behavioural, language or motor deficits (often in combination), and together are a leading cause of dementia, particularly in people under 65 years of age.

ForeFront is an amalgamate of two government funded research groups:

Frontotemporal dementia and motor neurodegenerative syndromes
This National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) program brings together a team of internationally recognised leaders in clinical, pathological and biological research on FTD and motor neurodegenerative syndromes. Individually these team leaders, along with their research staff, have made significant advances in these diseases, and this program will unify their efforts and focus on translating findings into better clinical information and intervention studies.

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Memory node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders This program investigates the cognitive systems and brain structures underlying various forms of memory, including autobiographical memory, episodic memory and semantic memory. The program uses experimental neuropsychological methods, as well as structural and functional brain imaging in patients with progressive brain pathologies such as frontotemporal dementia. Despite sustained research interest spanning 50 years, the cognitive and neural architecture of episodic and semantic memory systems and the factors that affect their optimal functions are still not fully understood.

See what’s going on at NeuRA


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.