NeuRA Magazine #21


NeuRA has officially launched a new virtual library on mental health called the NeuRA Discovery Portal. Developed to support the community, practitioners, people living with brain-related disorders, and their families, the new online library opens-up a world of fresh knowledge.

The first virtual library launched is the Schizophrenia Library, with further content planned for Bipolar Disorder and Dementia over the coming years.

Developed by NeuRA scientist Dr Sandy Matheson, with a creative framework in conjunction with Prof Vaughan Carr (Research Unit for Schizophrenia Epidemiology, UNSW and NeuRA), the new online library found at offers thousands of pages of information. It contains more than 2,000 downloadable fact sheets and technical evidence reports, some up to 50 pages in length. The Library also includes videos, podcasts, and interviews with leading scientific researchers in the mental health sector.

Commenting on the launch, Dr Sandy Matheson said due to the increasing volume of worldwide research into mental health and brain disorders, there is a need to collect, collate, and synthesise these research findings in a free, online database.

“The virtual Schizophrenia Library allows the public, consumers, carers, researchers, clinicians and policy developers to better understand, investigate and manage these disorders,”

“It is a major step forward in NeuRA’s investment in helping all people discover more about brain-related disorders.” said Dr Matheson.

The ‘new look’ Schizophrenia Library provides reliable and up to date information from systematic reviews on around 460 topics, all relating to schizophrenia.

There are two levels of information on each topic. The first is a brief Factsheet that provides general information describing the area examined and the evidence that is available. It’s relevant for the everyday person on the street.

The second is a Technical Commentary that provides more detail on each topic’s background, methods and results. Printable PDFs of factsheets and technical tables are available to download from each topic page.

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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.