Dr Daina Sturnieks


Senior Research Officer Conjoint Lecturer, School of Medical Sciences, UNSW

+612 9399 1062

Dr Sturnieks has a PhD in human biomechanics (UWA). She is Laboratory Manager for the Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre at NeuRA including a new state-of-the-art Balance and Gait Analysis Laboratory. Her research focuses on understanding biomechanical, sensorimotor and neurocognitive contributions to balance and falls in older people and clinical groups, and randomised controlled trials of novel interventions to prevent falls involving balance, stepping and cognitive training. Dr Sturnieks is active in translating research findings, is Executive Board Member of the Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society and Advisory Committee Member for the NSW Falls Prevention Network and NSW Ministry of Health -funded Active and Healthy website.

Projects Dr Daina Sturnieks is currently involved with


Training to prevent falls in older people

To date, no studies have examined the potential for cognitive or cognitive-motor training to prevent falls in older people, despite good evidence of fall-related cognitive and physical improvements following both intervention types. Building on our initial work, we have developed and validated a home-based computerised training intervention that can be delivered identically, either while seated (cognitive) or while standing and undertaking balance exercises (cognitive+motor). Our project will also uncover cognitive-motor interactions and their neural pathways related to falls, via state-of-the-art imaging techniques that measure brain structure and functional changes. This intervention addresses both physical and cognitive fall risk factors. It holds promise for a cost-effective fall prevention strategy with multiple health benefits for older people.


A RCT of cognitive-only and cognitive-motor training to prevent falls in older people

Vision, Posture and Balance Study (Optic Flow) – COMPLETED

The aims of this study was to determine:

  1. Whether balance, posture and standing body alignment and muscle activity are affected by vision differ between young and older people and between older people at low and high risk of falls
  2. Whether an over-reliance on vision for balance control might increase the risk of falls

The study involved an assessment with a series of interesting tests evaluating your vision, strength, reaction time, sensation, balance and mobility.


Vision, Posture and Balance Study (Optic Flow) – COMPLETED

A RCT of cognitive-only and cognitive-motor training to prevent falls in older people

This study aims to investigate the benefits of balance training and brain training on physical functions (balance and mobility), cognitive functions, general health and accidental fall events in people aged 65+ years.

The smartstep training system has been designed to enable you to undertake training in your own home, by playing engaging and enjoyable computer games. The system connects to a TV or computer monitor. The games are played with either a step mat (Figure 1) or a touch pad (Figure 2). These games have been designed to train important balance and cognitive functions, while also being fun. You may recognise some of the games, such as Space Invaders and Tetris (Figure 3).


A RCT of cognitive-only and cognitive-motor training to prevent falls in older people

Interactive step training to reduce falls in people with MS

More than 50% of people with multiple sclerosis will fall over a 3 month period. A clinical trial is being conducted in 500 people with multiple sclerosis who have difficulties with mobility and balance. We hope results of this study will provide solid scientific evidence to include in fall management programs for people with this condition.


An interactive step training RCT to reduce falls in people with multiple sclerosis

Adapting the Physiological Profile Assessment to assess upper limb function

This study will produce simple tests that can be used in population studies and patient group clinics. It will provide normative data for documenting the type and severity of upper limb Motor Impairments and provide the impetus to develop strategies to improve function in ageing and other disorders, such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis and peripheral neuropathy.


Adapting the Physiological Profile Assessment (PPA) to assess upper limb function

Everyday fatigue and fall risk in older people

This study will determine whether a busy day of physical activity (‘real world’ fatigue) impacts balance and mobility measures in older people. It will determine the importance of fatigue as a fall risk factor in older people, and provide significant information with respect to the value of mitigating fatigue as a fall prevention strategy.


Everyday fatigue and fall risk in older people







Vicki Smith

VICKY SMITH Executive Assistant

Jessica Turner

JESSICA TURNER Research Assistant

JOANNE LO Research Assistant

Cameron Hicks

CAMERON HICKS Research Assistant

Esther Vance

DR ESTHER VANCE Senior Research Assistant

DANIELA MEINRATH Masters student


Joana Caetano


Mayna Ratanapongleka


Cathie Sherrington

PROF CATHIE SHERRINGTON Senior research officer


Reducing the burden of dizziness in middle-aged and older people: A multifactorial, tailored, single-blind randomized controlled trial.

Menant JC, Migliaccio AA, Sturnieks DL, Hicks C, Lo J, Ratanapongleka M, Turner J, Delbaere K, Titov N, Meinrath D, McVeigh C, Close JCT, Lord SR

A multifactorial tailored approach for treating dizziness was effective in reducing dizziness handicap in community-living people aged 50 years and older. No difference was seen on the other primary outcomes. Our findings therefore support the implementation of individualized, multifaceted evidence-based therapies to reduce self-perceived disability associated with dizziness in middle-aged and older people.

Transfer effects of step training on stepping performance in untrained directions in older adults: A randomized controlled trial.

Okubo Y, Menant J, Udyavar M, Brodie MA, Barry BK, Lord SR, L Sturnieks D

Step training only in the forward direction improved stepping speed but may acutely slow response times in the untrained diagonal direction. However, this acute effect appears to dissipate after a few repeated step trials. Step training in both forward and lateral directions appears to induce no negative transfer effects in diagonal stepping. These findings suggest home-based step training systems present low risk of harm through negative transfer effects in untrained stepping directions.

Tailored multifactorial intervention to improve dizziness symptoms and quality of life, balance and gait in dizziness sufferers aged over 50 years: protocol for a randomised controlled trial.

Menant JC, Migliaccio AA, Hicks C, Lo J, Meinrath D, Ratanapongleka M, Turner J, Sturnieks DL, Delbaere K, Titov N, McVeigh C, Close JC, Lord SR
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