Senior Research Scientist
Conjoint Senior 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 into community, aged care and hospital settings and is Executive Board Member of the Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society.
We propose to install the smartstep system in rehabilitation units as an enjoyable, efficient and effective method of training balance, stepping and executive functions for people attending rehabilitation. The smartstep system includes modified versions of popular videogames, to maximise adherence and target specific balance and executive functions, played using an interactive stepping mat. This work aims to implement and evaluate the use of the smartstep system in aged care rehabilitation using a randomised controlled trial, comparing changes in patient balance and mobility performance between intervention and control groups. System user satisfaction will also be evaluated from the perspective of intervention group patients and therapists. In this randomised controlled trial with usual care control, groups will be compared on validated balance and mobility performance measures.
A randomised controlled trial to reduce the risk of falling in people with Parkinson’s disease.
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Impaired gait adaptability is associated with high risk of falls in older adults. Reduced executive function, increased concern about falling and weaker quadriceps strength contribute significantly to this relationship. Training gait adaptability directly, as well as addressing the above mediators through cognitive, behavioural and physical training may maximise fall prevention efficacy.
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.
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.