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Sensorimotor Neuroscience and Ageing

Developing non-invasive brain stimulation and training techniques for maintaining motor coordination in later life

Our research is geared toward revealing the dynamical and neural principles underlying sensorimotor integration and specifically applying this understanding to deficits in the motor system associated with the ageing process. This work involves the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to measure age-related changes in brain plasticity mechanisms and electroencephalography (EEG) to assess changes in connectivity patterns between brain regions. The ultimate aim of the research is to evaluate the use of non-invasive brain stimulation protocols and plasticity-based training programs to maintain coordinated motor behaviour into later life and to minimise, delay or even prevent  symptoms of brain disease, such as Alzheimer's disease.

The ability to harness neuroplasticity for clinical applications has far reaching implications for the maintenance of motor and cognitive function in older adults. Understanding the factors that contribute to individual differences in brain plasticity will offer unique and novel targets to promote individual brain health and well-being across the lifespan. Ultimately, modulating brain plasticity may minimise, delay or even prevent symptoms of brain disease, such as Alzheimer's disease, and to help maintain coordinated motor behaviour into later life. Measures of brain plasticity as employed in the proposed research may provide critical predictors and early biomarkers of disease. Empirically measuring plasticity may thus serve plasticity-based training programs aimed at promoting brain health and cognitive and motor function across the life span.

Research Areas

  • Ageing
  • Motor behaviour
  • Non-invasive brain stimulation
  • Computational neuroscience

Major achievements or grants

  • Summers, J.J., Carson, R.G., Hinder, M.R., & Gomez, R. The ageing brain: Plasticity and training. Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project Grant (2013 – 2015).
  • Summers, J.J., Canty, A., Hinder, M.R., Rodger, J., Garry, M.I. The mechanisms of transcranial magnetic stimulation: A translational approach. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant (2013 - 2015).
  • St George, R. Movement and balance in health and disease. NHMRC Early Career CJ Martin Fellowship (2015-2017).
  • Kruger, M. Trust your training: Improving movement stability in older people by manipulating cognitive uncertainty through cortical stimulation, cognitive and motor learning.  Robert-Bosch-Foundation (Germany) Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.
  • Hinder, MR. Brain connectivity during movement planning and execution in young and older adults. ARC Discovery Early Career Fellowship (2012 – 2015). 
  • Summers JJ, Verleger R, Fujiyama H. Age-related changes in brain activation: indicators of deficiency, maturity, or compensation? Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project Grant. (2010-2012).
  • Summers JJ, Elder S, Summers MJ, Vickers J. Evaluation of a multidimensional cognitive enhancement training program for healthy older adults. Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects. (2009-2012).
  • Summers JJ. Facilitatory and inhibitory mechanisms during interlimb coordination in young and older adults. Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Projects (2007-2012).
  • Garry MI, Summers J.J. Bilateral movement therapy in post-stroke hemiparesis. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant (2007-2009).

Related Groups and Expertise

Key Information

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Research theme areas:

  • Dementia
  • Neurosciences and Cognition