Dr Kim Delbaere, Profs Steve Lord and Jacqueline Close

Falls, Balance and Injury

RESEARCH CENTRE

FALLS, BALANCE AND INJURY RESEARCH CENTRE

The Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre (FBIRC), directed by Professor Stephen Lord, conducts research into understanding human balance, fall risk factors and strategies for prevention of falls in older people.

Falls are a major contributor to the burden of disease in older people and a major public health problem and clinical groups with balance disorders. Maintaining balance involves highly complex processing of peripheral sensory information and precise coordination of motor responses. Falls result from the complex interplay between impairments in these physiological functions, pathological ageing and the environments we negotiate on a daily basis. There can be myriad contributing factors, including drugs affecting cognitive function, deconditioning due to inactivity; disease processes such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke; and syndromes such as dementia and delirium.

One of the most serious consequences of a fall is a hip fracture. There are approximately 20,000 hip fractures in Australia every year. A hip fracture is a devastating injury for an older person and for many results in pain and lasting disability which directly impacts on the ability to live independently. For some a hip fracture can result in a move to residential care or death.

Preventing falls and effectively managing fall related injury is a key research and health priority. The Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre (FBIRC) was established in 2014 and brings together complimentary research of three senior research groups at NeuRA led by Professor Stephen Lord, Professor Jacqueline Close and Dr Kim Delbaere addressing fall and fall injury prevention and management.

The overarching aims of the FBIRC involve:

(i) the accurate documentation of falls and fall injuries

(ii) the identification of fall risk factors

(iii) the development of feasible fall prevention strategies and iv) the effective management of people with a fall related injury.

Our falls and injury epidemiology research uses multiple health service databases to examine predisposing factors for injurious falls and changes in patterns of fall injury over time. Our fall risk studies aim to enhance our understanding of human balance and involve investigations of sensory and motor contributions, behavioural factors as well as the contribution of disease processes to falls. Our fall prevention research incorporates components from physiotherapy, exercise physiology, psychology, brain imaging and computer software engineering. These studies comprise:

(i) large randomised controlled trials in people at increased risk of falls (i.e. those with dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis),

(ii) projects exploring technology-based solutions to prevent falls in older people, and

(iii) projects examining interrelationships among physical, psychological and cognitive factors in older people.

Our effective management of people with a fall related injury focuses predominantly on hip fracture care and includes work on how to best implement effective care in hospitals across Australia.

Specific projects are outlined in the NeuRA Group Leader pages of the Senior Researchers.

Staff

Professor Stephen Lord

Professor Jacqueline Close

Dr Kim Delbaere

LATEST NEWS AND EVENTS

NSW Falls Prevention Network Forum – Friday 11th May

Nutrition, frailty and falls

NSW Falls Prevention Network Rural Forum

The NSW Falls Prevention Network Rural forum is for health professionals committed to preventing falls in older people, it will feature presentations on evidence based interventions as well as highlight current innovative interventions from the local health district and provide information on the leading better value care – falls in hospital initiative.

NSW Falls Prevention Network Webinar – Dizziness & Falls (Dr Jasmine Menant)

This webinar will be focused on Dizziness and Falls, hosted by Jasmine Menant. Jasmine is a Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia and a conjoint lecturer at UNSW Medicine.

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Exploring the electrophysiology and heritability of wellbeing and resilience

The majority of adults without a mental illness still experience poor mental health, indicating a need for a better understanding of what separates mental wellness from mental illness. One way of exploring what separates those with good mental health from those with poor mental health is to use electroencephalography (EEG) to explore differences in brain activity within the healthy population. Previous research has shown that EEG measures differ between clinical groups and healthy participants, suggesting that these measures are useful indicators of mental functioning. Miranda Chilver’s current project aims to examine how different EEG measures relate to each other and to test if they can be used to predict mental wellbeing. Furthermore, she hopes to distinguish between EEG markers of symptoms including depression and anxiety, and markers of positive symptoms of wellbeing to better understand how wellbeing can exist independently of mental illness. This will be done by obtaining measures of wellbeing and depression and anxiety symptoms using the COMPAS-W and DASS-42 questionnaires, respectively. Because EEG measures and mental wellbeing are both impacted by genetics as well as the environment, Miranda will also be testing whether the links found between EEG activity and Wellbeing are driven primarily by heritable or by environmental factors. This information will inform the development of future interventions that will aim to improve wellbeing in the general population. To achieve these goals, the project will assess the relationship between EEG activity and wellbeing, and between EEG and depression and anxiety symptoms to first test whether there is an association between EEG and mental health. Second, the heritability of the EEG, wellbeing, depression, and anxiety will be assessed to determine the extent to which these variables are explained through heritable or environmental factors. Finally, a model assessing the overlap between the heritable versus environmental contributions to each measure will be developed to assess whether genetics or environment drive the relationship between EEG and mental health. This project is based on a sample of over 400 healthy adult twins from the Australian TWIN-E study of resilience led by Dr Justine Gatt. This research will pave the way for improved mental health interventions based on individual needs.
PROJECT