Professor Tania Winzenberg
Abdominal and lumbar muscle size and control in the elderly

The abdominal and lumbar multifidus muscles have been studied extensively in young adults and their important role in normal functional activities such as standing or walking and control of posture in young people is well-understood. Older people are at risk of muscle deterioration with aging, potentially leading to worsening balance, falls and fracture, and also are at risk of deterioration in other aspects of physical function.  Despite this, there are few studies of the abdominal and lumbar spinal muscles in older adults and their role in physical function in older people is unclear.  We are investigating the role of these muscles in older people in two studies using real time ultrasound imaging to measure the muscles in participants in two studies, VIDEO and TASCOG.  These studies are being undertaken by two PhD students supervised by Professor Winzenberg, Ms Anitra Wilson and Mr William Cuellar.

Anitra Wilson, PhD Candidate
Abdominal and lumbar multifidus muscles: size, symmetry and associations with physical function and other factors in the older adult

This study is investigating the effects of ageing on the abdominal and lumbar multifidus muscles in community-dwelling older adults.  We have analysed these muscles on 241 adults aged between 65 and 89 years of age with ultrasound imaging, and will compare the results to the literature for younger adults.  We are also looking for any associations between the morphology of these muscles and measurements of balance (using the Physiological Profile Examination)and gait patterns (using the GaitRite mat).  Finally we will assess if there are any associations with prospective falls incidence over a 12 month period.  The results of this study will provide a deeper understanding of the role of the abdominal and lumbar muscles during balance, gait and falls incidence, and may provide an additional approach to post-fall rehabilitation in the older adult.

William Cueller, PhD Candidate
Studies of abdominal and lumbar multifidus muscles in Vitamin D deficient older adults with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis"

In this study, people who are vitamin D deficient and have osteoarthritis of the knee who are participating in a randomised controlled trial of vitamin D supplements will have their abdominal and spinal muscles assessed using ultrasound imaging.  The muscles will be measured form these images to see whether vitamin D supplementation had any benefits for muscle size or function.

Dr Michele Callisaya
Studies of exercise, mobility and brain ageing

Cognition and Diabetes in Older Tasmanians - A randomised controlled trial of exercise

Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.  Exercise is recommended for the treatment of T2DM, but it is uncertain as to whether an exercise program may be beneficial in preserving brain health in this high-risk group. This study will be the first to examine whether an exercise program is beneficial in improving cognitive function and measures of brain health in people with type 2 diabetes aged 50-75 years. This study will provide insights into the vascular mechanisms linking diabetes, exercise and brain health, potentially leading to novel interventions and research (Supported by Alzheimer's Australia Research Foundation Research Grant)

Brain ageing - understanding the relationships between brain structure, gait, cognition and falls

The ability to walk efficiently and safely is essential for older people to maintain independence and quality of life.  Unfortunately gait problems are extremely common in older age and are associated loss of independence, falls, hospitalisation, institutionalisation and even death.  This study aims to develop a better understanding how the ageing brain is associated with cognition and the control of gait in older people, and whether early gait changes are able to predict serious adverse outcomes such as future dementia and falls. This body of research will be conducted using the foundation of the Tasmanian Study of Cognition and Gait (TASCOG), a longitudinal population-based study of brain ageing. 

Using technology to increase the intensity of practice after stroke

Stroke survivors spend most of the day inactive. Intensive repetitive practice improves function. We aim to carry out a pilot study to determine whether an activity monitor, motivational app and smart device can provide feedback and targets to motivate patients to perform a repetitive functional exercise outside of centre-based therapy.

Dawn Simpson - Masters Candidate
Investigating and improving activity behaviours post stroke

Pamela Chen - Masters Candidate (Primary supervisor Prof Tania Winzenberg)
The Southern Tasmanian Health Literacy and foot ulcer development in Diabetes Mellitus study (SHELLED study) 

Description: Podiatrists are specialists in managing and preventing foot ulceration in diabetes. In performing routine assessments and education, we empower patients to perform sustained and adequate self care. The concept underpinning this success, however, is dependent upon an individual's level of health literacy, which is the extent to which one understands and is able to apply information obtained in the health context to their daily lives. My research looks to investigate the association between one's level of health literacy and foot ulcer risk factors, and ultimately foot ulcer development amongst 200 Southern Tasmanians living with diabetes. In doing so, we aim to improve awareness of health literacy, and encourage better communication with our patient group, reducing the burden and incidence of foot ulceration in the long term.

Jason Rogers - PhD candidate (Primary Supervisor Prof Tania Winzenberg)
Clinical and metabolic factors and imaging abnormalities in plantar heel pain

Jason is conducting a case-control study with longitudinal follow up examining factors associated with plantar heel pain, and assessing for predictors of outcome at 12 months. As well as some of the standard mechanical/ clinical measures, he will be examining MR, US and high resolution Quantitative CT to image bone and soft tissue pathology, undertaking a suite of psychological measures, and examining bloods for metabolic and pro-inflammatory (cytokine) markers. PHP is common and can be stubborn to treat. We believe not all PHP is the same, and that identifying specific sub-groups will help improve the tailoring of current treatments and facilitate insights into new ones.

Dr Marie Louise Bird
Pilot RCT to evaluate use of Jintronix Rehabilitation System Feasibility of INteractive Digital Technology (FIND) Technology

Supported by the Australian Stroke Foundation - in collaboration with clinicians from the Launceston General hospital is embarking on a novel program to increase dose of physical activity in rehabilitation.  Using software developed in Canada for stroke clients on commercially available hardware (Kinect), this research trial is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.  The program includes 12 different games with focus on upper and lower limb activities and balance activities.  This system is highly configurable to allow specificity for each client to be tailored. The system is capable of operating remotely - the potential for this to change service delivery for rural clients will be explored in the future.

Ishanka Munugoda (PhD candidate)
Primary Supervisor – Dr. Michele Callisaya
A 10-year study of knee and hip musculoskeletal health in community dwelling older adults.


This study focuses on Osteoarthritis (OA) which is a highly prevalent disease that causes a major burden to socio-economical aspects of the community individually & nationally. Hence, effective prevention and treatment of OA is vital. But this is often challenged due to lack of understanding about the risk factors and natural progression of the disease.

This study will investigate the effect of body composition measures and physical activity on 10-year knee MRI cartilage volume loss as well as on the risk of total hip and knee replacement, in adults aged between 50 and 80 years. Using sensitive MRI determined quantitative data, we also will track changes of knee cartilage volume, cartilage defects, bone marrow lesions, and meniscal injuries and examine their relationship with change in knee pain over 10 years. In addition, the effects of statin use on the muscle properties over 10-years will also be evaluated as a part of this project.

The findings of this study intends to broaden the current understanding about natural disease progression and causal pathways of knee and hip OA.