Vestibular balance

HEALTH INFORMATION

Correcting issues of the vestibular system

WHAT WE KNOW

The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that help control balance and eye movements. Our visual system works with our vestibular system to keep objects from blurring when our head moves and to keep us aware of our position when we walk or when we ride in a vehicle. The system may be damaged by disease, aging, or injury.

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. When both vestibular organs are damaged it can be severely debilitating. The research in this laboratory has two closely related goals: 1) to understand the signal processing mechanisms that control the VOR by analysing vestibular-evoked eye movements and single-unit (vestibular nerve) recordings; and 2) to apply this knowledge of basic vestibular physiology to the diagnosis and treatment of balance disorders in humans.

OUR LATEST RESEARCH

Treating dizziness in older people

Despite effective treatments being available, up to 40% of older people with reported dizziness remain undiagnosed and untreated. A multidisciplinary assessment battery, with new validated assessments of vestibular impairments is required for diagnosing and treating older people with dizziness. This project will therefore aim to conduct a randomised-control trial of a multifaceted dizziness intervention based on a multidisciplinary assessment, and develop a multiple profile assessment of dizziness for use in Specialist Clinics.

Development of a take-home rehabilitation device that improves vision and balance in patients with i

This project will develop a rehabilitation device based on a training technique we invented, which has been shown to significantly normalise the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) response in patients with vestibular organ lesions.

A new mouse model that determines the effects of a unilateral vestibular prosthesis on vestibular pl

Much like a cochlear implant restores auditory function, a vestibular prosthesis restores balance function. It is not clear whether the limited results from vestibular prostheses is due the device not stimulating one component (the otoliths) of the vestibular system essential for self-repair.

The effect of enhanced vestibular efferent transmission on plasticity of the mammalian vestibulo-ocu

We have identified a nerve-pathway crucial for balance adjustment and self-repair. We will test a mouse type that has this pathway genetically made more sensitive to determine whether stimulation of this pathway is a viable approach to improving recovery after balance loss in humans.

Investigation of factors that modify the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) response to optimise vestibular rehabilitation therapy

We have developed a rehabilitation technique shown to reliably improve self-repair of vestibular disorders.

What else is happening in Vestibular balance research at NeuRA?

FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

'I've got the best job for you dad. Your shaky arm will be perfect for it!'

Children… honest and insightful. Their innocence warms the heart. But what words do you use to explain to a child that daddy has an incurable brain disease? What words tell them that in time he may not be able to play football in the park, let alone feed himself? What words help them understand that in the later stages, dementia may also strike? Aged just 36, this was the reality that faced Steve Hartley. Parkinson's disease didn't care he was a fit, healthy, a young dad and devoted husband. It also didn't seem to care his family had no history of it. The key to defeating Parkinson's disease is early intervention, and thanks to a global research team, led by NeuRA, we're pleased to announce that early intervention may be possible. Your support, alongside national and international foundations Shake it Up Australia and the Michael J Fox Foundation, researchers have discovered that a special protein, found in people with a family history of the disease increases prior to Parkinson’s symptoms developing. This is an incredible step forward, because it means that drug therapies, aimed at blocking the increase in the protein, can be administered much earlier – even before symptoms strike. The next step is to understand when to give the drug therapies and which people will most benefit from it. But we need your help. A gift today will support vital research and in time help medical professionals around the world treat Parkinson’s disease sooner, with much better health outcomes. Thank you, in advance, for your support.  
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