Neuromuscular Imaging Research Laboratory

Our research team is working to identify the factors which influence the transition of acute to chronic pain following trauma. We particularly focus on whiplash injuries from motor vehicle collisions.

Our team uses advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure changes in spinal cord anatomy and muscle degeneration, to help us determine what’s contributing to persistent pain.

Our research delivers broad ranging benefits from preventing, diagnosing and treating trauma-related pain.

Part of our research strength comes from our multi-disciplinary approach, involving the fields of magnetic resonance physics, radiology, emergency medicine, biomedical and mechanical engineering, speech language pathology, neurophysiology and physical therapy.


Lead

Professor Jim Elliott

Professor of Allied Health, Northern Sydney Local Health District and University of Sydney

PhD Students and Supervisors

Louise Hansell

Diagnostic lung ultrasound (LUS) in critical care: lung aeration change associated with chest physiotherapy treatment.

Supervisors – Dr. Maree Milross, Dr. George Ntoumenopoulos, Prof. Jim Elliott

LUS is an emerging tool for the ICU physiotherapist in treating respiratory problems in mechanically ventilated patients, due to its well documented diagnostic accuracy. Its use as an adjunct to bedside respiratory assessment tools should allow physiotherapists to better monitor disease progression or improvement associated with chest physiotherapy treatment. With more appropriate treatment selection, we anticipate improvements in patient outcomes, particularly reduced time of ventilation and reduced ICU length of stay.

Jade Barclay

Clinical management priorities for syndromic hypermobility and chronic pain.

Supervisors – Prof. Jim Elliott, Prof Sarah Dennis, A/Prof Leslie Nicholson, Dr. Clifton Chan

Hypermobile patients often experience significantly delayed diagnosis and require multiple medical and allied health specialists due to highly complex needs. This project aims to use a mixed methods dual-arm adapted-Delphi study to determine the management priorities for hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) from both patient and clinician perspectives. This study will inform future research, and potentially identify gaps in access to care and management priorities for this complex patient population. The aims of this study are to explore the top priorities in the management of hEDS from both patient and clinician perspectives, to establish a consensus ranking of top management priorities from both patient and clinician perspectives, to enable known management priorities to inform hEDS research, policy and practice, and to identify gaps between patient and clinician priorities in the management of hEDS.

Akane Katsu

Return to employment for working-aged adults after burn injury.

Supervisors – A/Prof Lynette Mackenzie, A/Prof. Martin Mackey, Dr. Zephanie Tyack, Prof. Jim Elliott

The aim of this PhD project is to examine and map the existing literature on return to work after burn injury to clarify key concepts in the literature, analyse current knowledge gaps, and identify and establish priority research areas.

Priya Arora

Profiling Acute Musculoskeletal Presentations to Emergency Care Centres. Examining the Influence of Pre-Existing Medical & Psychopathology Diagnoses.

Supervisors – Prof. Jim Elliott, Dr. Fereshteh Pourkazemi

Musculoskeletal conditions are the fourth leading cause of years lived with disability globally. Alarmingly, this was the exact rank in 1990, suggesting that research into prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal pain over the past 30 years has had little effect on its overall global burden. The precise reasons some people fail to fully recover while others follow a less problematic recovery are becoming clearer, following consideration of psychosocial predictors, such as anxiety, depression and stress. Effective interventions however have proven elusive. Potential reasons are that musculoskeletal disorders are not all the same. They are more common in women and appear to have a larger impact on those who are older. One factor was the experiences of other life stressors not directly related to the trauma but proposed to influence the reaction to the trauma through a cumulative load-type pathway. In this model, chronic pre-trauma stress affects both psychological and physiological resilience in those who experience a musculoskeletal injury, increasing post-trauma stress and pain.

Danielle Stone

Prevalence of Chronic Pain-related Dysphagia following Trauma Exposure.

Supervisors – Prof. Jim Elliott, A/Prof. Trudy Rebbeck, Dr. Hans Bogaardt, Dr. Deborah Shirley, Prof. Liz Ward

The disease burden of Whiplash Associated Disorder following motor vehicle collision is staggering, with chronic symptoms reported in up to 50 per cent of presentations and annual costs in Australia up to $950 million. The multifaceted nature of this complex condition is well-known, however less recognised, but potentially significant symptoms of swallow and voice change following injury, has not been thoroughly investigated. Currently, there is no standard speech pathology involvement in the management of musculoskeletal head and neck trauma. The PhD will investigate the prevalence and nature of dysphagia and dysphonia in individuals with chronic pain following traumatic musculoskeletal injury to the head and neck.

Janine Stirling

Exploring an Assessment and Treatment Guideline for Physiotherapists who may
Treat Patients Presenting with Sexual Trauma.

Supervisors – Prof. Jim Elliott, Prof. Lucy Chipchase, Dr. Jane Chalmers

This proposal will investigate current evidence-based literature to inform an assessment, prediction and treatment approach that specialist pelvic floor physiotherapists may adopt in clinical practice when treating patients with a sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse trauma history.

Our team has a broad range of national and international collaborators spanning the fields of magnetic resonance physics, radiology, emergency medicine, biomedical and mechanical engineering, speech language pathology, neurophysiology and physical therapy.

By working across these disciplines, our team is in the best position to understand why pain transitions from acute to chronic pain for some people and not others. Strong collaborations will assist our team to help reduce the rate of transition to chronic pain.

Professor Jim Elliott
  • Neuromuscular Mechanisms Underlying Poor Recovery from Whiplash Injuries
  • Harnessing Data for Better Health
  • Whole-body MRI
  • Elliott and Ken Weber (Stanford) - Supervised machine learning methods in the field of deep learning artificial intelligence used to solve complex clinical pattern recognition problems
  • Elliott and Dave Walton (U Western, Ontario, Canada) A stress-diathesis model of chronic musculoskeletal conditions as a new framework to drive prevention and rehabilitation forward
Louise Hansell

Diagnostic lung ultrasound (LUS) in critical care: lung aeration change associated with chest physiotherapy treatment.

LUS is an emerging tool for the ICU physiotherapist in treating respiratory problems in mechanically ventilated patients, due to its well documented diagnostic accuracy. Its use as an adjunct to bedside respiratory assessment tools should allow physiotherapists to better monitor disease progression or improvement associated with chest physiotherapy treatment. With more appropriate treatment selection, we anticipate improvements in patient outcomes, particularly reduced time of ventilation and reduced ICU length of stay.

Jade Barclay

Clinical management priorities for syndromic hypermobility and chronic pain.

Hypermobile patients often experience significantly delayed diagnosis and require multiple medical and allied health specialists due to highly complex needs. This project aims to use a mixed methods dual-arm adapted-Delphi study to determine the management priorities for hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) from both patient and clinician perspectives. This study will inform future research, and potentially identify gaps in access to care and management priorities for this complex patient population. The aims of this study are to explore the top priorities in the management of hEDS from both patient and clinician perspectives, to establish a consensus ranking of top management priorities from both patient and clinician perspectives, to enable known management priorities to inform hEDS research, policy and practice, and to identify gaps between patient and clinician priorities in the management of hEDS.

Akane Katsu

Return to employment for working-aged adults after burn injury.

The aim of this PhD project is to examine and map the existing literature on return to work after burn injury to clarify key concepts in the literature, analyse current knowledge gaps, and identify and establish priority research areas.

Priya Arora 

Profiling Acute Musculoskeletal Presentations to Emergency Care Centres. Examining the Influence of Pre-Existing Medical & Psychopathology Diagnoses.

Musculoskeletal conditions are the fourth leading cause of years lived with disability globally. Alarmingly, this was the exact rank in 1990, suggesting that research into prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal pain over the past 30 years has had little effect on its overall global burden. The precise reasons some people fail to fully recover while others follow a less problematic recovery are becoming clearer, following consideration of psychosocial predictors, such as anxiety, depression and stress. Effective interventions however have proven elusive. Potential reasons are that musculoskeletal disorders are not all the same. They are more common in women and appear to have a larger impact on those who are older. One factor was the experiences of other life stressors not directly related to the trauma but proposed to influence the reaction to the trauma through a cumulative load-type pathway. In this model, chronic pre-trauma stress affects both psychological and physiological resilience in those who experience a musculoskeletal injury, increasing post-trauma stress and pain.

Danielle Stone

Prevalence of Chronic Pain-related Dysphagia following Trauma Exposure.

The disease burden of Whiplash Associated Disorder following motor vehicle collision is staggering, with chronic symptoms reported in up to 50 per cent of presentations and annual costs in Australia up to $950 million. The multifaceted nature of this complex condition is well-known, however less recognised, but potentially significant symptoms of swallow and voice change following injury, has not been thoroughly investigated. Currently, there is no standard speech pathology involvement in the management of musculoskeletal head and neck trauma. The PhD will investigate the prevalence and nature of dysphagia and dysphonia in individuals with chronic pain following traumatic musculoskeletal injury to the head and neck.

Janine Stirling

Exploring an Assessment and Treatment Guideline for Physiotherapists who may
Treat Patients Presenting with Sexual Trauma.

This proposal will investigate current evidence-based literature to inform an assessment, prediction and treatment approach that specialist pelvic floor physiotherapists may adopt in clinical practice when treating patients with a sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse trauma history.

Researchers join celebrations for national award

Researchers join celebrations for national award

Kolling Institute researchers have been recognised with a prestigious award for an initiative to sup..... Read more

International knee transplant study to inform future care

International knee transplant study to inform future care

New funding announced by the Federal Government will see researchers from the Kolling Institute and ..... Read more

Kolling researchers join global effort to reduce heart disease in women

Kolling researchers join global effort to reduce heart disease in women

Two leading cardiovascular experts have been appointed to a prestigious world expert panel to reduce..... Read more