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Research centres

Centre for Pain IMPACT

INVESTIGATING MECHANISMS OF PAIN TO ADVANCE CLINICAL TRANSLATION The Centre for Pain IMPACT, directed by A/Prof James McAuley, A/Prof Sylvia Gustin, Dr Siobhan Schabrun and A/Prof David Seminowicz conducts research that encompasses basic science through to clinical and translational research. Our research investigates the causes of chronic pain; develops and tests the efficacy and effectiveness of new treatment approaches; and implements new treatment approaches into clinical practice. The research covers a range of conditions: low back pain, osteoarthritis, temporomandibular disorder, focal hand dystonia, headache, complex regional pain syndrome, migraine, burning mouth syndrome, sickle cell disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury neuropathic pain, trigeminal neuropathic pain and trigeminal neuralgia. Our team uses different research methods, including: animal (rodent) models, human models, neuroimaging, experimental methods (non-invasive brain stimulation, quantitative sensory testing), cohort studies, randomised controlled trials, implementation trials, and qualitative research. The Centre also provides ongoing pain-related educational activities, including media, public lectures, clinical workshops, and seminars. The overarching aims of the Centre for IMPACT are to: • profile NeuRA’s world class pain research • facilitate collaboration within and beyond NeuRA • raise awareness of NeuRA’s pain activities by providing: o a platform for research participant recruitment o a forum for public and clinician education. • leverage expertise within NeuRA to seek external funding support (e.g. NHMRC CRE, industry, philanthropy).

Dr Kim Delbaere, Profs Steve Lord and Jacqueline Close

Falls, Balance and Injury

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 (Centre Director), Professor Jacqueline Close (Clinical Director) and A/Prof Kim Delbaere (Director, Innovation and Translation) 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 A/Prof Kim Delbaere

Digitally created image of brain in skull

ForeFront

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. Learn more... 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.

Injury Prevention

The Injury Prevention Research Centre undertakes research that aims to prevent injuries. Injury is the leading cause of death for people under 45 years of age. Injuries to the nervous system, such as brain and spinal cord injuries, are particularly devastating - often leading to lifelong disability. Chief Investigators Prof Lynne Bilston Prof Stephen Lord Dr Julie Brown Dr Lorimer Moseley Research Projects Injuries in car crashes Road accidents are the commonest cause of serious injury to humans. Research is aimed at understanding how and why these injuries occur, and developing effective preventative strategies. This research program encompasses studies of injury mechanisms in vehicle occupants, and design and evaluation of countermeasures to injury, including public health, educational and engineering solutions. Falls Injury Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation in persons aged 65 years and over and account for four percent of all hospital admissions in this age-group. The falls injury program undertakes research into the mechanisms of falls, and is developing methods to predict falls risk and prevent falls and injury Pain after injury Many trauma patients suffer from ongoing pain as a result of their injuries. Studies are being undertaken to determine how this pain arises from injury, and how it can be treated. This will lead to improved pain management guidelines.  

Research participant's arm in a machine designed for motor impairment study

Motor Impairment

Motor Impairment is a major cause of physical disability and includes muscle weakness and fatigue, impaired sensation and poor balance, and muscle contracture and spasticity - all of which need to work if we are to undertake the usual range of daily activities. The goals of our five-year (2014-2018), NHMRC-funded Motor Impairment Program are to better understand the pathophysiology of motor impairment, to implement interventions and to drive enhanced clinical practice.  

Spinal Cord Injury

What is the Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre? The Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre (SCIRC) at NeuRA was established in 2020. The Centre conducts research aimed at improving the lives of those with spinal cord injuries, and was built thanks to funding from SpinalCure Australia. The Centre is home to studies that could lead to significant changes to the treatment methods for people with spinal cord injuries. How does the SCIRC work? This facility contains state-of-the-art exercise, rehabilitation and neurophysiology equipment. NeuRA has long been a world leader in neurostimulation research. The creation of this centre in 2020 enables the organisation to increase the scope and speed of this research. The Centre is currently exploring cutting-edge techniques, such as neurostimulation and inspiratory muscle training, which could help activate muscles in people with spinal cord injuries. Improved activation of muscles is likely to lead to improved bodily functions, such as breathing and walking. Research studies are led by NeuRA Deputy Director Simon Gandevia, Senior Principal Research Scientist Jane Butler, and Senior Research Scientist Euan McCaughey.  They are joined by Dr Martin Heroux, Dr Claire Boswell-Ruys and Dr Liz Bye. Why is this research so important? Around 350 Australian’s are affected by a spinal cord injury each year, many of them at a young age. The effects of a spinal cord injury are major: they can impair many critical functions that are easily taken for granted. Movement, sensation, blood pressure control as well as bowel, bladder, sexual function can all be affected. NeuRA’s commitment to spinal cord injury research could help improve the quality of life of the estimated 12,000 people across Australia who have a spinal cord injury The Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre is based at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) which is located next to the Prince of Wales Hospital on Barker St in Randwick NSW. Find us on Google maps Download a Randwick Hospitals campus map (PDF) SCIRC LEADERSHIP Simon Gandevia (s.gandevia@neura.edu.au) Jane Butler (j.butler@neura.edu.au) SCIRC TEAM Euan McCaughey (e.mccaughey@neura.edu.au) Martin Heroux (m.heroux@neura.edu.au) Claire Boswell-Ruys(c.boswell-ruys@neura.edu.au) Liz Bye (l.bye@neura.edu.au)   The Centre is home to three studies that could lead to significant changes to the treatment methods for people with spinal cord injuries. Related projects include: Therapeutic acute intermittent hypoxia to restore voluntary function after spinal cord injury Electrical abdominal stimulation to improve breathing and bowel function The RESTORE Trial: Immersive Virtual Reality treatment for restoring touch perception in people with discomplete paraplegia

Transurban Road Safety Centre

Transurban Road Safety Centre was built in 2017 and is Australia’s first research-dedicated crash test lab. It combines world-class research with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to provide a source of ongoing innovation in road safety. The Centre Our facility features a crash sled, capable of reaching speeds up to 64 km/h. It gives NeuRA’s researchers the opportunity to study a number of growing trends on Australian roads. These includes aged drivers and passenger’s safety, motorcyclist’s safety, motorcycle design, rear seat occupancy and restraint systems. The facility also enables our researchers to collect important data that reflects the severity of road crashes. Our goals NeuRA and Transurban have recently announced a new three-year partnership, which will continue to support the operations of NeuRA’s Transurban Road Safety Centre (TRSC) and the team of researchers who work there. Our goal is to alleviate the significant impact of death and injury on our roads through research. Our findings “NeuRA has made some exciting discoveries that will help keep Australia’s drivers, passengers and motorcyclists safer on our roads,” said the TRSC Lead Scientist, Professor Lynne Bilston. “Our research has included improving the use and effectiveness of child restraints, providing better advice to older drivers about how they can protect themselves while behind the wheel, and examining how motorcycles could be designed differently to reduce injury during a crash,” she said. The TRSC’s findings are being provided to Australian regulatory bodies and motorist associations to inform the development of regulations and assist road users. Our future “Transurban is committed to strengthening communities through transport and safety is always our highest priority in delivering benefits to our customers and the community,” said Liz Waller, Road Safety Manager at Transurban. Find out more Older driver safety compromised by seat cushions and pillows Researchers suggest a rethink of “banned” chest clips on child car restraints in Australia Research finds that children are three times more likely to die or be seriously injured in a car crash if their car seat has been used incorrectly Experts find that errors in child car seat use is putting children’s lives at risk