Neural injury

EXTRA INFORMATION

Understanding the mechanisms of spinal injury

WHAT WE KNOW

About our research

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

Problems include whether children use restraints correctly and whether they use restraints that are appropriate for their size, and whether the rear seat restraints perform as well as those for front seat passengers.

Fundamental to this work is understanding the differences between injuries in children and in adults. We are investigating how their body tissues are different, including their size, how much load they can tolerate, how stiff they are, and how these factors, along with developmental changes, affect the types of injury that children sustain.

We use MRI techniques, such as magnetic resonance elastography, to measure the stiffness of body tissues in live human subjects in ways that have previously been impossible. This technique also has applications beyond road trauma research; there are also changes in tissue stiffness in some diseases, such as cancer, which is what allows us to detect breast cancer lumps, for example. We are using this technique to examine changes in brain tissue in brain cancer, in a condition called hydrocephalus (fluid accumulation in the brain) and also in muscles after injury.

What we have discovered

  • Many injuries to children in car crashes are preventable by using a restraint that is the right size for the child, and using the restraint correctly.
  • Children are not big enough to fit properly into adult car seats and belts until about 11 years of age.
  • Differences in spinal cord injury between adults and children may be related to differences in the stiffness of their spinal column and responses to forces that occur during injury.

Current projects

Magnetic Resonance Elastography

We are using this new MRI technique to measure the stiffness of the brain, muscles and other tissues. This method uses an external vibration in the tissue, the propagation of which is measured with the MRI scanner to estimate the stiffness and viscosity of the tissue. The stiffness changes with age and in some diseases, so this research may help us develop better methods of diagnosis of diseases of the brain and muscle, such as hydrocephalus, sleep apnoea, and muscle injury.

Effects of mechanical loads on the nervous system

We are studying how mechanical forces affect the tissues of the human nervous system. This research ranges from spinal cord and peripheral nerve injury to chronic conditions such as syringomyelia and hydrocephalus. Recent work on the mechanical factors in spinal cord injury has shown that the difference in spinal cord injury incidence and severity between adults and children is influenced both by fundamental differences in the spinal column flexibility and stiffness, and differences in intrinsic spinal cord tissue responses to mechanical loading.

Upper airway biomechanics

We are studying the mechanical properties and motion of muscles that surround the upper airway and how these change in people with sleep apnoea.

See what’s going on at NeuRA

FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

The cold case of schizophrenia - broken wide open!

‘It is like they were miraculously healed!’’ Schizophrenia is diagnosed by clinical observation of behaviour and speech. This is why NeuRA researchers are working hard to understand the biological basis of the illness. Through hours of work and in collaboration with doctors and scientists here and around the world, NeuRA has made an amazing breakthrough. For the first time, researchers have discovered the presence of antibodies in the brains of people who lived with schizophrenia. Having found these antibodies, it has led NeuRA researchers to ask two questions. What are they doing there? What should we do about the antibodies– help or remove them? This is a key breakthrough. Imagine if we are treating schizophrenia all wrong! It is early days, but can you imagine the treatment implications if we’ve identified a new biological basis for the disease? It could completely change the way schizophrenia is managed, creating new treatments that will protect the brain. More than this, could we be on the verge of discovering a ‘curable’ form of schizophrenia? How you can help We are so grateful for your loyal support of schizophrenia research in Australia, and today I ask if you will consider a gift today. Or, to provide greater confidence, consider becoming a Discovery Partner by making a monthly commitment. We believe there is great potential to explore these findings. Will you help move today’s breakthrough into tomorrow’s cure? To read more about this breakthrough, click ‘read the full story’ below. You are also invited to read ‘Beth’s story’, whose sweet son Marcus lived with schizophrenia, by clicking here.
APPEAL