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Injuries & Safety

HEALTH AREA

Injury is a leading cause of death and disability among adults and children in Australia, and globally. We currently have a number of research programs examining different aspects of injury to try and develop the evidence needed to turn this around.

Adult safety

The one area of vehicle safety that has received little attention, and therefore has not seen as much improvement is the rear seat. Older drivers and passengers are also at increased risk of injury and death in crashes, and with the ageing population finding ways to reduce this risk is an increasing health priority area.

Back pain

Back pain is very common and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that makes it hard to move.

Balance training

Falls and fall-related injuries are one of the most common causes of ill health and morbidity in older adults and lead to functional impairment, disability, lower quality of life, and fracture. Neuromuscular, or balance, training is undertaken in order to improve posture, prevent injury or as a form of rehabilitation. Balance training is helpful for improving standing balance and locomotor performance in older adults.

Child injury

Injury is a leading cause of death and disability among children in Australia, and globally. We currently have a number of research programs examining different aspects of child injury to try and develop the evidence needed to turn this around.

Chronic pain

The Moseley Group is conducting research into a new treatment for chronic pain aimed at correcting problems in how the brain processes sensory information. Based on recent research that suggests that changes in the brain are linked to the experience of pain, this novel therapy uses brain training techniques to treat chronic pain.

Falls and balance

Multiple factors play a role in falls and related injuries, however poor balance is the cause of the majority of falls in older adults. Human balance depends on the interaction of our senses of sight, touch, etc. and our ability to control the movement of our bodies. These abilities decline significantly as we age, which can lead to falls, even when there are no identifiable neurological or musculoskeletal problems. We aim to enhance understanding of human balance through investigations of the sensory and motor systems.

Falls prevention

Much fall prevention research has been undertaken over the past 20 years, and there is now some evidence that fall injury-related hospitalisation (predominantly hip fracture) is decreasing. However, there are still large gaps in the literature particularly around targeting appropriate populations and interventions, and incorporating new technologies in fall prevention. Prof Stephen Lord’s vision is to be at the leading edge of fall prevention research by conducting a series of inter-related innovative studies aimed at elucidating fall prevention strategies. Major planned studies will identify effective fall prevention strategies that can be readily integrated into clinical care pathways.

Fracture recovery

The most serious fall-related injuries is fracture of the hip. Older people recover slowly from hip fracture and are vulnerable to a number of potential post-operative complications. Hip fracture care is a particular area of interest at NeuRA. Recently we highlighted the current and future costs of hip fracture care. A separate study looked at some of the aspects of quality of care and have shown that across New South Wales there is significant variation in the time older people have to wait for their hip fracture surgery with the conclusion that more could be done to expedite care.

Motorcycle safety

As motorcycles and scooters become increasingly popular forms of transport, the number of riders injured and killed in motorcycle crashes is also increasing. Dr Julie Brown and her team are looking for ways to help reduce the pain and suffering as well as the healthcare burden associated with these crashes.

Muscle pain

Muscle pain, or myalgia, is quite common and can be felt anywhere there is muscle tissue on the body. The pain is usually localised and affects a small number of muscles at a time. Systemic muscle pain, which is felt throughout the body, is different and is more often the result of an infection, an illness or a side effect of a medication. Muscle pain is typically related to tension, overuse, or due to muscle injury resulting from exercise or physically demanding work. The pain tends start during or just after the activity. It is often obvious which activity is causing the pain. Muscle pain also can be a sign of conditions affecting the whole body. For example, some infections (including the flu) and disorders that affect connective tissues throughout the body can cause muscle pain. Common causes of muscle pain include tension or stress, injury (sprains) or using a muscle too much. Another cause may be fibromyalgia, a condition that causes tenderness in the muscles and surrounding soft tissue as well as sleep difficulties, fatigue or headaches.

Nerve and spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injuries are often a result of trauma such as experienced in motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries and falls, and are seen most frequently in young men aged between 15-24 years. Spinal cord injuries can also have non-traumatic causes, such as arthritis, disc degeneration or other diseases such as cancer.

Neural injury

Led by Prof Lynne Bilston, key research is directed towards understanding the mechanisms of spinal injury in children, and to improving child restraints used in cars.

Pain

Pain might be mild and last just a moment, or it might be severe and last for weeks or months. As the body repairs the damage the nociceptive messages cease, encouraging use of the injured or inflamed body part once again. We study how pain is processed in the brain and how pain affects the sympathetic nervous system, the branch of the nervous system involved in the control of blood pressure. This will improve our understanding of the complex physiological responses to pain and ultimately help us understand why some people with chronic pain develop high blood pressure.

Vestibular balance

The vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is important for maintaining visual stability during tasks that move the head rapidly and unpredictably, for example, as occurs during running or when driving on a bumpy road. The vestibular organs, one in each inner ear, sense rotational and linear head motion and move the eyes to compensate for passive head movements. The vestibular organ can be damaged by disease, degenerative conditions and by chemical or surgical interventions.

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FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

The RESTORE Trial: Immersive Virtual Reality Treatment for Restoring Touch Perception in People with Discomplete Paraplegia

Chief Investigators: Associate Professor Sylvia Gustin, Prof James Middleton, A/Prof Zina Trost, Prof Ashley Craig, Prof Jim Elliott, Dr Negin Hesam-Shariati, Corey Shum and James Stanley While recognition of surviving pathways in complete injuries has tremendous implications for SCI rehabilitation, currently no effective treatments exist to promote or restore touch perception among those with discomplete SCI. The proposed study will address this need by developing and testing a novel intervention that can provide touch restoration via the primary source of sensory perception: the brain.Complete spinal cord injury (SCI) is associated with a complete loss of function such as mobility or sensation. In a recent discovery we revealed that 50% of people with complete SCI still have surviving somatosensory nerve fibres at the level of the spine. For those with complete SCI this is hopeful news as it means -- contrary to previous belief that communication to the brain had been severed by injury -- that the brain is still receiving messages. This new SCI type is labelled “discomplete SCI” -- a SCI person who cannot feel touch, but touch information is still forwarded from the foot to the brain. The project will use virtual reality (VR) in a way it has never been used before. We will develop the first immersive VR interface that simultaneously enhances surviving spinal somatosensory nerve fibres and touch signals in the brain in an effort to restore touch perception in people with discomplete SCI. In other words, immersive VR is being used to re-train the brain to identify the distorted signals from toe to head as sensation (touch). For example, participants will receive touch simulation in the real world (e.g., their toe) while at the same time receiving corresponding multisensory touch stimuli in the virtual world (e.g., experiencing walking up to kick a ball). This project is the first effort worldwide to restore touch sensation in 50% of individuals with complete injuries. The outcomes to be achieved from the current study will represent a cultural and scientific paradigmatic shift in terms of what can be expected from life with a spinal cord injury. In addition, the project allows potential identification of brain mechanisms that may ultimately represent direct targets for acute discomplete SCI rehabilitation, including efforts to preserve rather than restore touch perception following SCI. RESTORE consolidates the expertise of scientists, clinicians, VR developers and stakeholders from NeuRA and UNSW School of Psychology (A/Prof Sylvia Gustin, Dr Negin Hesam-Shariati), John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research, Kolling Institute and University of Sydney (Prof James Middleton, Prof Ashley Craig and Prof Jim Elliott), Virginia Commonwealth University (A/Prof Zina Trost), Immersive Experience Laboratories LLC (Director Corey Shum) and James Stanley. If you are interested in being contacted about the RESTORE trial, please email A/Prof Sylvia Gustin (s.gustin@unsw.edu.au) and include your name, phone number, address, type of SCI (e.g., complete or incomplete), level of injury (e.g., T12) and duration of SCI (e.g., 5 years).
PROJECT