NeuRA Magazine #29


Katie is the daughter of Australian television icon and Gold Logie Winner Jeanne Little. Katie has written a book about her mum called Catch a Falling Star.

My mum, Jeanne Little, has Alzheimer’s disease. She has had it for thirteen long years, with eleven of those in full time care. What strikes me the most is the difference between mum in life, and mum today. When we visit it is like I’m visiting a different person – a shell of the person she was who looks at me through a blank and distant stare. Alzheimer’s stole my mum. Even Tom, my young son – mature beyond his years – says she wouldn’t want this, and he’s right. Who would?

One million Australians will have dementia by 2050 – that’s one in three of us! I feel it is our responsibility to rid our community of this beast. No one deserves their final years – any years for that matter – ‘living’ like this. That’s why I’m supporting NeuRA and their 1,000 Brains Study. NeuRA’s research in preventive lifestyle measures together with the 1,000 Brains Study makes me feel hopeful they can break the back of this insidious disease.

NeuRA is where all the smart people are, so we all need to get behind them and help them as much as possible. With your help, they can find out how to prevent and cure this illness, so no one in future generations has to lose someone they love, like my mother Jeanne Little. Alzheimer’s is awful. It has robbed me and my family of so many things. But the one thing it will not take is my sense of humour – the tougher life is the darker it gets.

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.