Head and Neck Sensation

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Research Group

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Philip Bolton – Group Leader (http://www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/philip-bolton#profile-career)
Shannon Casinto – Postgraduate Student, MPhil (Human Physiology), Project – Role of Neck Posture in Headaches
Kieran Gossage – Visiting Medical Student, Project – Influence of otolith orientation on vestibulo-spinal evoked reflexes in humans

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 MRI neck rtreceptors in the head and neck are very important in our daily activities of living. Injury of the head and neck following even 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.

Facilities – 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.

Kerian doing exptIn 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 Micro BWand neck position and motion.

We have facilities to electrically stimulate nerves including those 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.

1) Understanding the role of the brain and neck injury in persistent (chronic) neck pain.
2) Influence of otolith orientation on vestibulo-spinal and vestibulo-occular evoked reflexes in humans
3) Role of neck posture in headaches
4) Effects of manual therapy on blood pressure regulation in humans
5) Neck pain biomarkers and chiropractic outcomes.


A PhD Scholarship is available for a suitable postgraduate student to join the group and work on a project to investigate the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the development of chronic neck pain. Interested persons should contact Professor Bolton.

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