NeuRA Magazine #19

Volunteer opportunities

HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE TO RESEARCH

A participant assists in falls and balance research

As a research participant at NeuRA, you will play a critical role in helping us advance the treatment and understanding of many diseases and conditions. By donating your time, you will help us provide excellence in the care of others.

Research groups currently looking for participants:

James McAuley Group
Back pain
The purpose is to investigate the mechanisms underlying the development and persistence of chronic low back pain. We hope to explain why some people get better after hurting their back while others do not. We are looking for healthy volunteers who do not have low back pain within the last two years as the control group. The participation in this study will involve three sessions of approximately 2 hours. The sessions will occur at baseline and again 3 and 6 months later.

Stephen Lord Group
Step training
We are looking at training a participants’ ability to respond to slips and trips while walking. The participant will experience perturbation (either a slip or trip) while walking along our walkway. They will be in a harness to prevent injury.

Lynne Bilston Group
Breathing and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
We aim to understand how the function of the upper airway muscles, sensation in the airway, and the brain all control breathing muscles and how these things contribute to obstructive sleep apnoea. We hope this will lead to personalised treatments of sleep apnoea in the future. This study requires two overnight visits in the sleep laboratory and an MRI appointment. Participants may be compensated up to $220.

Jane Butler Group
Breathing and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have difficulty performing simple physical tasks such as walking from one room to the next. These tasks require effort and causes breathlessness (comparable to a normal person performing strenuous exercise). We perform electroencephalography (EEG) in our study to determine if a cortical contribution is present during quiet breathing in people with COPD. We would like to recruit participants of similar age (+-2 years), BMI and same gender as our COPD participants.

Stephen Lord Group
Understanding upper limb function in the young and old
Motor impairments are common and occur in many diseases and disorders, and also with ageing. We aim to understand motor impairments and to devise strategies to reduce their deleterious effects. To do this, an approach of ‘physiological profiling’ for lower limb performance has been used by Professor Lord and colleagues to reduce the risk of falls. We will undertake a similar approach to measure performance of the upper limb using simple inexpensive tests that can ultimately be widely used in research and clinical practice.

Janet Taylor Group
Does learning about pain change the influence of exercise in people with chronic pain?
The purpose of this research project is to better understand how exercise affects pain in people with chronic pain. We are looking for volunteers with fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis of the hip or knee to take part in an experiment investigating the effect of exercise and pain education on pain thresholds. Volunteers would be required to visit the laboratory on one occasion for approximately 90 minutes. During this visit, participants would be asked to complete a short series of questionnaires, perform 20 min of low-moderate intensity aerobic exercise, and have their pain threshold measured before and after this exercise. The assessment of pain thresholds is non-invasive and produces only the minimum perceivable amount of pain. Participants will be offered $30 for their time.

If you would like to register or find out more, call 02 9399 1071 or email volunteers@neura.edu.au. You can also volunteer as a healthy research participant.

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Cortical activity during balance tasks in ageing and clinical groups using functional near-infrared spectroscopy

Prof Stephen Lord, Dr Jasmine Menant Walking is not automatic and requires attention and brain processing to maintain balance and prevent falling over. Brain structure and function deteriorate with ageing and neurodegenerative disorders, in turn impacting both cognitive and motor functions.   This series of studies will investigate: How do age and/or disease- associated declines in cognitive functions affect balance control? How is this further impacted by psychological, physiological and medical factors (eg. fear, pain, medications)? How does the brain control these balance tasks?     Approach The experiments involve experimental paradigms that challenge cognitive functions of interest (eg.visuo-spatial working memory, inhibitory function). I use functional near-infrared spectroscopy to study activation in superficial cortical regions of interest (eg. prefrontal cortex, supplementary motor area…). The studies involve young and older people as well as clinical groups (eg.Parkinson’s disease).   Studies Cortical activity during stepping and gait adaptability tasks Effects of age, posture and task condition on cortical activity during reaction time tasks Influence of balance challenge and concern about falling on brain activity during walking Influence of lower limb pain/discomfort on brain activity during stepping   This research will greatly improve our understanding of the interactions between brain capacity, functions and balance control across ageing and diseases, psychological, physiological and medical factors, allows to identify targets for rehabilitation. It will also help identifying whether exercise-based interventions improve neural efficiency for enhanced balance control.
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