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Sutherland Shire resident, Valerie Barnett,
was once on the 'other side' of NeuRA's
work. The 75-year-old, who has balance and
other serious health concerns, participated
in dance mat research last year.
"I don't have good balance and I
wondered if there was anything I might be
involved in to help," says Barnett.
"They [NeuRA staff] came and installed
the equipment on my television and then I
had the dance mat...I started off with the
easiest test first and then tried to work up
to something a bit more difficult.
"The idea was to try and do about 15-
to-20 minutes on it three times a week for
eight weeks...I quite enjoyed it actually,
as when you get to a higher level you felt
quite good that you've moved up. It was
down to get started."
Barnett reports that she stopped using
the mat a while after her participation
ended. But, she says, it was of benefit
to her and she might go back and use
it again. Meanwhile, the dance mat has
undergone further developments.
"The whole idea [of the trial] is to get
people to stop having falls. As we age,
that's the biggest problem...Anything [like
the mat] that can help people down the
track is a good thing."
RESEARCH V PRACTICE
One of the most common criticisms
about research is that, although it might
directly help research participants like
Barnett, results often fail to impact
Yet according to the team at NeuRA,
research translation is just as important as
the research itself.
"If you don't have a direct link to a
clinical type of setting, then you tend to
do your research and publish it in peer-
reviewed journals," says A/Prof Close.
"But the reality is that the people you
want to deliver those interventions are not
necessarily the people who read those types
"So yes, from a credibility and academic
perspective, there is a requirement to
publish research in peer review journals
but the reality is that if you want to
influence the ministry and policy makers,
you have to enter into dialogue with them."
Prof Lord says his team works with
state and federal governments to formulate
policies and change clinical practice, as
well as other bodies involved in developing
standards and guidelines for falls.
"We are trying to translate the research
to ensure that our work gets adopted
more broadly than by just the 500 people
in the research group," Prof Lord adds.
"Not every piece of research will have
a direct implication [into practice]. But all
the work we do is no further than two steps
away from its practical purpose. That's just
our group. That's what drives us."
Although Prof Lord admits that even
the best neuroscience institute in the
world will ever be able to solely cure all
disease and prevent 100 per cent of falls,
NeuRA has high hopes its research will
seriously dent future falls rates.
"We are all mortal, so we are not going to
find the fountain of youth or anything like
that." But if NeuRA's falls research enables
older people to prevent and manage falls, he
states, it will impact on their quality of life.
"If people can stay independent while
they are living in their own homes, and
that's where they prefer to be, then they
will often enjoy a good quality of life. They'll
be able to get out of their chair and look
after themselves, right into older age. That's
really what we are really aiming to do." n
NeuRA's Falls and Balance Research
Group is looking for older participants
to join its 'dizziness' project. The study
will attempt to pinpoint the causes
of dizziness in the older population,
develop an effective screening tool
to diagnose dizziness symptoms
and suggest a number of treatment
options. For more information about
participation, call Dr Jasmine
Menant on 02 9399 1267 or email
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