NeuRA Magazine #28


NeuRA has developed an informative brochure on correct usage of seat belts for seniors, in partnership with the Transurban Road Safety Centre. This follows research that shows on average, around 250 Australians aged over 65 die every year in car crashes, and more than 4,000 are hospitalised after a crash. Injuries sustained by elderly drivers are more severe than those in younger age groups.

It is estimated that injury risk is nine times higher per kilometre in drivers 85 years and older compared to drivers between 25 and 69-years-of-age.

“Cars are a primary means of transport for senior Australians. They provide independent living and enable social and community engagement and are particularly important where public transport is limited. Car safety is therefore a critical component of healthy ageing,” says Associate Professor Julie Brown.

The Transurban Road Safety Centre, based at NeuRA, is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that allows researchers to study the frailty of the ageing human body, and to understand how vehicles and equipment can best protect us from injury on the road.

“As we age, our body shape changes. Research shows that variations in body shape such as increased weight or obesity, which may occur as a result of ageing, can negatively influence seatbelt fit,” says Ms Waller, from Transurban.

Car crashes and injuries are often preventable. Innovations designed to protect the occupant, such as airbags, vehicle structure and seat belts, have improved over the past 50 years.

“The vehicle structure and the airbags will work in a crash in the way they are designed to work regardless of any action by drivers and passengers. However, the seatbelt will only be effective if it is worn and it will be most effective when it is worn correctly,” says Ms Waller.

Research shows that correct usage of the seat belt is critical to the occupant’s safety, so the goal of the brochure for senior drivers is to review how seat belts are designed to work, bring greater awareness to the importance of good seat belt fit and deliver tips on senior driver safety on the roads.

Find out more

To request a free copy of the Seat belts and seniors brochure please visit:


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.