Dr Harrison Finn


Postdoctoral Fellow

+61 2 9399 1629

Harrison completed his Bachelor of Health Science (Sports and Exercise Science) with Honors and Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology before starting his PhD in 2015.

Projects Dr Harrison Finn is currently involved with


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.


Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation for Orthostatic Hypotension in Spinal Cord Injury

Accelerating ventilator weaning in spinal cord injury with non-invasive Abdominal Stimulation: a ran

While tetraplegia is commonly associated with paralysis of all four limbs, paralysis also affects the major respiratory muscles, namely the diaphragm, abdominal and intercostal muscles. The reduction in respiratory function results in approximately 40% of tetraplegic patients requiring mechanical ventilation in the acute stage (first six weeks) of injury to support respiration. The use of mechanical ventilation increases lifelong morbidity and mortality, delays rehabilitation, results in longer hospital stays and costs the health care provider an additional $2,000 per patient per day.

Surface electrical stimulation of the abdominal muscles, termed Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES), can contract the abdominal muscles, even when paralysed.  We have shown that surface FES of the abdominal muscles, termed Abdominal FES, improves respiratory function in tetraplegia, and respiratory function is a known predictor of mechanical ventilation time. Dr McCaughey’s pilot work also shows that eight weeks of abdominal FES is a feasible method to reduce mechanical ventilation time in acute tetraplegia.

Despite these positive results, a lack of data from randomised control trials, and lack of a standard Abdominal FES protocol, has prevented this technology from being adopted as a standard clinical treatment.

This project will provide the first information on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of Abdominal FES to reduce mechanical ventilation duration in tetraplegia. In addition, it will provide detailed information about respiratory function and its impact on quality of life in tetraplegia.

This is an international collaboration brings together leading research and medical teams from: Neuroscience Research Australia, the Prince of Wales Hospital, Royal North Shore Hospital, Austin Health and Fiona Stanley Hospital in Australia; The Indian Spinal Cord Injury Centre and the Christian Medical College, Vellore, in India; The Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit and the University of Glasgow in Scotland; Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, and the University of Alberta and McMaster University in Canada.


Accelerating ventilator weaning in spinal cord injury with non-invasive Abdominal Stimulation: a randomised controlled trial



BILLY LUU Postdoctoral Researcher : b.luu@neura.edu.au


DR RACHEL MCBAIN Postdoctoral fellow

David Kennedy

DAVID KENNEDY Research Assistant

Siobhan Fitzpatrick

SIOBHAN DONGÉS Postdoctoral Fellow


Jessica D'Amico

DR JESSICA D’AMICO Research Officer


The Magnitude of Peripheral Muscle Fatigue Induced by High and Low Intensity Single-Joint Exercise Does Not Lead to Central Motor Output Reductions in Resistance Trained Men.

Marshall PW, Finn HT, Siegler JC

Maximal central motor output in resistance trained men is well preserved despite varying levels of peripheral muscle fatigue. Upregulated central motor output during the 40% contraction protocol appeared to elicit greater peripheral fatigue. V-waves declines during the 80% protocol suggest intensity dependent modulation of the Ia afferent pathway.

Muscle activation does not increase after a fatigue plateau is reached during 8 sets of resistance exercise in trained individuals.

Finn HT, Brennan SL, Gonano BM, Knox MF, Ryan RC, Siegler JC, Marshall PW

The premise of eliciting the greatest acute fatigue is accepted and used for designing programs that include excessive, potentially dangerous volumes of high-intensity resistance exercise. There is no evidence examining acute fatigue and neuromuscular responses throughout multiple sets of moderate-to-high intensity resistance exercise. Fifteen resistance-trained male subjects performed a single exercise session using 8 sets of Bulgarian split squats performed at 75% maximal force output. Maximal force output (N) was measured after every set of repetitions. Electromyographic (EMG) activity of vastus lateralis was monitored during all force trials and exercise repetitions. Repetitions per set decreased from the first to the third set (p < 0.001). Maximal force output decreased from preexercise to set 4 (p < 0.001). Electromyographic amplitudes during exercise did not change. Secondary subgroup analysis was performed based on the presence, or not, of a fatigue plateau (<5% reductions in maximal force output in subsequent sets). Nine participants exhibited a fatigue plateau, and 6 did not. Participants who plateaued performed less first-set repetitions, accrued less total volume, and did not exhibit increases in EMG amplitudes during exercise. Initial strength levels and neuromuscular demand of the exercise was the same between the subgroups. These data suggest that there are individual differences in the training session responses when prescribing based off a percentage of maximal strength. When plateaus in fatigue and repetitions per set are reached, subsequent sets are not likely to induce greater fatigue and muscle activation. High-volume resistance exercise should be carefully prescribed on an individual basis, with intrasession technique and training responsiveness continually monitored.