Research in this group looks at the nervous system including the brain, spinal cord and the nerves connecting these structures to the rest of the body.
Comprised of subgroups which research balance and hearing, head and neck sensation, neuroinflammation, nerves and how they relay information to and from the brain as well as spinal cord connections, research in this group uses anatomical, physiological, and molecular techniques to explore how the brain and nervous system works.
From the head, neck, organs of balance and indeed the rest of the body, signals are constantly being sent to the brain about what we feel.
Hunter researchers are working to better understand the role and influence of the head and neck sensory systems on normal activities of daily living and in circumstances involving dysfunction and or injury.
Researchers also work to understand and reduce pain and discomfort for patients with brain, spinal cord or neural injuries.
Advanced techniques such as neurophysiological and neuroanatomical studies of the brain, spinal cord and vertebral column are common practice for this group. Researchers are able to record heart function, breathing and even record nerve activity at rest and during mechanical stimuli such as head and neck movements.
The system that regulates our balance and hearing is called the vestibular system and has traditionally worked so well in our ears and brains that very little research has explored what happens when something goes wrong. Consequently however, there are few treatments available to patients with balance and vertigo disorders and hunter researchers are working to improve this.
Hunter researchers have recently developed a new model for studying the vestibular system which was extremely difficult to study before this time. So far they have found important tiny hair cells that are able to transmit signals to the brain and back again about our balance which makes them unique to any other cell in the nervous system.
The spinal cord is much like a telephone exchange, receiving information from a multitude of channels, which must be preserved and processed before they can be directed to appropriate destinations. Knowledge about how the lines of communication are connected normally is critical if we are to repair and rewire them after damage.
Various studies investigating how signals pass through the spinal cord to the brain and back again are underway within this group with the ultimate goal to improve the outcomes for patients with spinal cord injury, an extremely complex condition which desperately requires further understanding and treatment options.