NeuRA Magazine #27


NeuRA has a team of committed scientists who study the anatomy and functionality of the brain. The brain is the greatest unknown, understudied and complex part of what makes us think, act and operate on every level. Our new Heads at Work eBook takes you through a range of research areas being explored by our neuroscientists and the discoveries they have made that can help you understand and maintain mental wellness at work. This eBook sets out the positive actions we can all take to support the health of our brain, and in doing so, improve our mental wellness in both our personal lives and at work. The eBook looks at key factors like sleep, stress and chronic low back pain that can contribute to mental distress, depression, anxiety and low energy levels at work. It also looks at new research on the immune-to-brain relationship and whether resilience can be developed to inoculate people against stress.

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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.