Head and Neck Sensory Research Group

Research Focus
The aim of the Head and Neck Sensory Research Group is 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.
Sensory receptors in the head and neck are very important in our daily activities of living. Injury of the head and neck, even following a minor whiplash event, can cause significant clinical problems such as headache, neck pain, dizziness, visual disturbances and disorientation. In instances of more severe injury to the head and neck, the brain and spinal cord can also be damaged resulting in very significant clinical problems. In either circumstance when these symptoms persist and become chronic they can be very disabling for the individual and very costly to the community.

We are particularly interested in better understanding the role of signals arising from the musculoskeletal system of the neck and the balance (vestibular) system in the head with the intent of identifying ways to reduce both pain and suffering associated with dysfunction and injury to the head and neck.

We have a dedicated neurophysiology and a spinal studies laboratory in which we can undertake basic and applied neurophysiological and neuroanatomical studies of the brain, spinal cord and vertebral column.
In our human neurophysiology laboratory we record heart function (ECG & BP), breathing (Resp) and muscle activity using electromyography (EMG). In addition we have force transducers and access to a Vicon motion analysis system to measure head and neck position and motion.
We have facilities to electrically stimulate nerves including those arising from the vestibular (balance) system while recording from muscles in the neck and elsewhere in the body. We use microneurography to record nerve activity in our volunteers while they are at rest and during mechanical stimuli, such as head and neck movements, and electrical stimulation of nerves.

Peripheral Autonomic and Sensory Neuroscience Laboratory

Most of the time our nervous system controls our insides without reaching our consciousness. However, sometimes inflammation and trauma disrupt the signals from our internal organs. In extreme cases this leads to chronic visceral pain,  often striking multiple organs. Our group studies the nerves that sense and control our internal organs. These neurons are scattered throughout body where they convey signals to and from the spinal cord.