NeuRA Magazine #29

Research in Action


Research using child-sized crash test dummies has shown, for the first time, a potential safety benefit in using plastic chest clips on child car restraints, as they keep shoulder straps together, reducing the risk of serious injury in a crash.

Despite chest clips being widely used in the United States, they do not meet Australian safety standards due to concerns they may cause neck injuries in a crash. However, researchers at the Transurban Road Safety Centre at NeuRA have found no sign of serious injury related to the chest clips when tested on Australian child restraints.

Researchers reviewed real-world data from an American crash database to see if there were any signs of injury in children up to the ageof four.

“We found that there was actually a reduction in the risk of moderate to serious injury of all types in children under one when chest clips were used properly,” said Professor Lynne Bilston, Senior Principal Research Scientist at NeuRA.

This review of American data prompted Professor Bilston to study the performance of Australian car seats in crash tests using the same type of chest clips used in the US. Professor Bilston and her team conducted crash tests using small child-sized crash test dummies at the Transurban Road Safety Centre based at NeuRA.

“We tested chest clips in frontal crashes, using a crash test dummy that represents the smallest child who would normally be forward facing,” said Professor Bilston.

The crash tests were done at 49 km/hr in a frontal direction, both with a tight harness and with a looser harness. Analysis of highspeed crash test footage showed the plastic clips tended to slide down the straps during the crash, meaning they are unlikely to be forcefully touching a child’s neck. There was no difference in the neck forces with the clips in place.

The results of this research will be submitted for consideration by the Australian Standards Committee to determine whether plastic chest clips might have a net benefit, allowing them to be supplied with Australian child car restraints.

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.