NeuRA Magazine #21


Meet Assoc Prof Danny Eckert from the NeuRA Sleep and Breathing Lab. His team are about to partner with Brisbane-based company, Oventus Medical, on a major new Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) program. He tells us more about this study which could help us all have a better night’s sleep.


What approach will this research take?

This research will target therapy for sleep apnoea using a novel personalised approach as a result of a successful Cooperative Research Centres Programme (CRC-P) grant application. CRC-P’s are funded by the Commonwealth Government Department of Innovation, Science and Technology and are designed to support outcome-focused collaborative research partnerships between industry, researchers and

the community.


What is the key aim of this project?

This project aims to develop several technologies to establish an integrated, real-time sleep monitoring and treatment platform for OSA. NeuRA will lead the clinical research program for this collaborative project.


Is there an economic cost to business around sleep disorders?

In 2011, sleep disorders cost the Australian economy an estimated $21.2 billion (Deloitte Access Economics: The economic cost of sleep disorders in Australia 2012). Effective treatment for OSA has been limited by poor tolerance of the main therapy and has been limited by accessibility and adoption of new technology for diagnosis and treatment.


Are there are range of factors that disrupt our sleep?

The Sleep and Breathing Lab at NeuRA has demonstrated that a range of factors impact the categorisation of OSA. This new understanding of the underlying causes of OSA has unlocked new targets for therapy. However, diagnosis is still heavily reliant on the date from an overnight sleep study, which can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Treatment of OSA has traditionally been dominated by Positive Airway Pressure (PAP), developed here in Sydney. If used regularly, PAP technologies have a high success rate.


How will the clinical trials be structured?

My research team will conduct the clinical trials for the project to test and enable refinement of the technologies, and incorporate the techniques and advances in tailored therapy for OSA, pioneered by the NeuRA sleep and breathing team. Clinical validation and refinement in this context will be critical to translating these concepts and technologies to provide new treatment options and improved outcomes for patients.


When will the trials take place?

The clinical sleep trials which will be performed at NeuRA in 3 stages (1 each year of the project) will test various treatment options singly and in combination. The milestones for the project are specifically set to revolve around patient outcomes from the 3 clinical trials, with the overarching goals of developing more effective, more reliable and more comfortable therapies compared with current technologies.


NeuRA is internationally renowned for its sleep and breathing research. Its clinical research team have an established track record in identifying the multiple causes of OSA and developing and testing new tailored therapies.


See what’s going on at NeuRA


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.