Neurological & Central Nervous System

HEALTH AREA

The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. It regulates and coordinates body activities. If neurons are damaged, the result is often a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, stroke or multiple system atrophy. Read on to find out more about these conditions and what NeuRA is doing to understand, treat and cure them.

Breathing

Breathing is a complex motor task that needs to be coordinated at all times while we eat, speak, exercise and even during sleep. Our overall goal is to determine the role of neural drive in impairments of respiratory muscle function in older adults (over 65 years), people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), spinal injury or obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

Motor neurone disease

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a neurodegenerative disease that causes rapidly progressive muscle weakness. Specifically, the disease affects nerve cells (motor neurons) that control the muscles that enable you to move, speak, breathe and swallow. The precise cause of MND and its disease process remains a complete mystery. Some researchers are looking into possible environmental triggers – such as exposure to toxins or electrical injury.

Multiple system atrophy

Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a progressive degenerative neurological disorder that affects adult men and women, usually in their 50s or 60s. It is caused by degeneration or atrophy of nerve cells in specific areas of the brain. The cause of MSA is unknown, no specific risk factors have been identified, and there is no cure or effective treatment. Treatment for MSA includes medications and lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms. The condition progresses gradually and eventually leads to death.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that causes trembling, stiffness, slowness of movement and a loss of fine motor control. The disease destroys neurons in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Without these dopamine-producing cells, the brain’s ability to control movement is progressively reduced. We are conducting research to improve diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that cause the disease. Symptoms Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by a gradual deterioration and death of brain cells in the substantia nigra. However, people with Parkinson’s can lose up to 70% of susceptible brain cells and go on for many years before symptoms become noticeable. While symptoms vary from person to person, the most well-known symptom is a tremor. People with Parkinson’s disease may also experience slowness of movement, stiffness, a loss of automatic movements such as blinking and smiling, changes in speech and, in the later stages of the disease, dementia.

Stroke

Over 60,000 Australians suffer a stroke every year, making it the second most common cause of disability in Australia. More than half of those who survive a stroke require help with normal daily activities. There is no cure for stroke, nor any forthcoming. Rehabilitation is the only method to recover movement of stroke-affected limbs. Our research focuses on the recovery of movement after stroke. We are currently setting up a project to test the delivery of rehabilitation therapy via high speed broadband to people in regional and remote parts of Australia. We are also making detailed assessments of stroke patients before and after rehabilitation that will allow us to predict which patients will benefit most from therapy.

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