Digitally created image of brain in skull

ForeFront

RESEARCH CENTRE

FTD and MND research group

ForeFront is a collaborative research group in Australia dedicated to the study of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neurone disease (MND).

FTD and MND are a group of disorders identified by distinct clinical signs and symptoms, and/or specific brain pathologies. These disorders are generally rapidly progressing, cause behavioural, language or motor deficits (often in combination), and together are a leading cause of dementia, particularly in people under 65 years of age.

ForeFront is an amalgamate of two government funded research groups:

Frontotemporal dementia and motor neurodegenerative syndromes
This National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) program brings together a team of internationally recognised leaders in clinical, pathological and biological research on FTD and motor neurodegenerative syndromes. Individually these team leaders, along with their research staff, have made significant advances in these diseases, and this program will unify their efforts and focus on translating findings into better clinical information and intervention studies.

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Memory node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders This program investigates the cognitive systems and brain structures underlying various forms of memory, including autobiographical memory, episodic memory and semantic memory. The program uses experimental neuropsychological methods, as well as structural and functional brain imaging in patients with progressive brain pathologies such as frontotemporal dementia. Despite sustained research interest spanning 50 years, the cognitive and neural architecture of episodic and semantic memory systems and the factors that affect their optimal functions are still not fully understood.

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Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation for Orthostatic Hypotension in Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in the loss of function to not only voluntary motor control, but also to the regulatory systems that control bodily processes. Orthostatic (postural) hypotension (OH) is a common clinical feature in SCI patients, affecting up to 73% of patients with cervical spine and upper thoracic spine injuries during mobilisation and postural changes. This often results in symptoms of dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue and confusion, in turn limiting individual participation in physical rehabilitation and restricting progress towards regaining function and independence. Therapeutic interventions are centred around ameliorating symptoms of OH; however, options for patients remain limited. Non-pharmacological treatments have had little success at treating hypotension in the long-term, while pharmacological interventions are used only when necessary as they may contribute to hypertension and even worsen episodes of autonomic dysreflexia, a life-threatening condition. Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is one of the only interventions that has been shown to display some benefit in improving OH. Recently, stimulation of the lower limbs has been shown to acutely increase blood pressure in patients with SCI. Our recent projects have involved the use of FES applied over the abdominal muscles, termed abdominal FES, for SCI patients at risk of respiratory complications with promising results. As this same population is at risk of orthostatic hypotension, this study aims to determine whether abdominal stimulation can also be used to help this condition. Based on our previous research, we believe that abdominal FES will increase blood pressure acutely during an orthostatic challenge in individuals with acute spinal cord injury, allowing for a longer time spent in a standing position. This will facilitate more effective rehabilitation, therefore improving quality of life and decreasing associated medical complications.
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