NeuRA Magazine #30


In October, NeuRA is running a campaign called Colour Your Hair for Mental Health to raise funds for mental health research. Funds will be used to advance our ability to treat and prevent a range of illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and bipolar disorder. It will also help us to learn how we can improve our resilience, which can reduce the likeliness and severity of mental illness.

In joining Colour Your Hair for Mental Health, participants will dye their hair or wear a colourful wig during Mental Health Week, 7–13 October. We hope that as well as raising funds, Colour Your Hair for Mental Health will generate conversations and create opportunities for people to come together and share stories that help break through stigma related to mental illness. Our goal is to generate more interest in this topic and greater awareness about how and why mental illness impacts so many people.

Why is NeuRA running Colour Your Hair for Mental Health? Our vision is to identify more effective treatments, or perhaps even a cure, for mental illness.

At least one in five Australians will face a mental health challenge in their lifetime and, by fundraising and colouring your hair, you can help to make a difference.

At NeuRA, we are working to unlock the secrets of what is occurring in our brains when these illnesses occur. Your support will enable more investment into research that can help treat and support people with mental illness throughout the country.

We encourage you to sign up to Colour Your Hair for Mental Health if you are interested in supporting great research and giving hope to millions of Australians living with mental illness

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.