NeuRA Magazine #20

WHAT’S IN THIS ISSUE?

This issue offers an amazing amount of hope to those affected by Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. We meet three researchers – brothers Dr Arne Ittner and Prof Lars Ittner, and Dr Nic Dzamko – whose work presents us with new information about the early stages of both diseases. Crucially these new realisations have the potential to reveal how we might better treat them. It’s early days yet, but these research paths hold incredible promise. This issue also looks at the benefits that are gained when people who have had a stroke use a Wii-based rehabilitation therapy, and we touch base with some of our young researchers working in the areas of back pain and injury prevention in children.

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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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