2006 Grant Recipient Researchers

Eve Blair

Associate Professor Eve Blair

Telethon Institute for Child Health Research – Western Australia

$80,000 over two years
Searching for the causes of cerebral palsy

The causes of cerebral palsy are not known. One way to search for the causes is to analyse the records of a large group people with cerebral palsy, and see what factors are common to them that are less common in people without cerebral palsy.

Dr Eve Blair and colleagues are doing just that. They are searching through the Western Australian Cerebral Palsy Register, which has records on about 740 people with cerebral palsy who were born between 1980 and 1995. They can compare the records of these people with those in the population who are similar in many ways, but don’t have cerebral palsy.

It’s an early step, but a vital one towards getting a clearer understanding of what causes cerebral palsy.

She has been researching the causes of cerebral palsy for more than 25 years. Dr Eve Blair is Adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Child Health, University of Western Australia, and Senior Research Fellow at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

Catherine Gibson

Dr Catherine Gibson

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology University of Adelaide – Adelaide, South Australia

$40,000 over two years
Infections, genetics and prevention of cerebral palsy

Doctors used to think that children born with cerebral palsy must have had difficult births. But new research suggests other factors may be important, such as a genetic susceptibility to infections during pregnancy, and a genetic susceptibility to problems with blood clotting.

This research project, led by Dr Catherine Gibson, will take that new research further. She hopes to learn more about infections and genetics, seeking a path to prevention of cerebral palsy. She will be using newborn umbilical cord blood samples from cerebral palsy and non-cerebral palsy infants from around Australia looking for evidence of viral infection during pregnancy.

Her research into the causes of cerebral palsy, which was the subject of her PhD thesis, attracted many awards and invitations to speak at international conferences. She is now continuing her post doctoral studies in the area of viruses and genetics.

Lex Doyle

Professor Lex Doyle

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute – Melbourne, Victoria

$40,000 over one year
Preventing cerebral palsy among premature babies

We know that a proportion of the very small or premature babies born each year will go on to develop cerebral palsy, and other such babies will develop other forms of neurological damage. This means they could have problems with thinking, or seeing, or hearing, or perhaps walking.

Professor Lex Doyle and colleagues carried out a large research project involving a series of home visits by physiotherapists and psychologists to the homes of some of these very small or very premature babies. The visits aimed to improve the skills of the parents in dealing with the challenges they may face in caring for such susceptible infants.

The project hoped to show that early intervention will reduce the likelihood of problems with thinking, vision, movement or hearing occurring.

Professor Lex Doyle is a neonatal paediatrician with the Royal Women’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne. Professor Lex Doyle has a long term interest in the on-going development of premature babies, and has been editor of the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Margaret Wallen

Margaret Wallen

The Children’s Hospital Westmead – Sydney, NSW

$100,000 over three years
Modified constraint-induced therapy for children with cerebral palsy: A randomised trial

This research will compare two occupational therapy interventions for children with hemiplegic CP to identify which intervention improves the function of a child’s arm and hand the most.

Carol Maher

Carol Maher

University of South Australia – South Australia

$10,000 over one year
The internet to get adolescents with cerebral palsy active? Are you kidding?

Physical activity is good for everybody. But physical activity can be difficult for adolescents with cerebral palsy – time, opportunity, physical limitations and supportive peer groups are all issues.

Carol Maher investigated whether the internet can help promote physical activity. Can web-based programs improve adolescents’ knowledge of the many benefits of getting moving? Can they improve adolescents’ confidence in their ability to be active? Can they change adolescents’ behaviour? Can they improve adolescents’ fitness? It may sound strange, but these are questions well worth asking – the benefits would be enormous.

Carol Maher is a paediatric physiotherapist who is doing her PhD with the University of South Australia and also works with Novita Children’s Services in Adelaide.

_Adrienne Harvey

Adrienne Harvey

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute – Victoria

$13,500 over one year
The development, reliability and validity of the Functional Mobility Scale for children with cerebral palsy

This research will validate a new tool (Functional Mobility Scale) that is used to measure functional mobility for children with cerebral palsy before and after intervention.

Christine Imms

Christine Imms

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute – Victoria

$13,500 over one year
Diversity of participation in children with cerebral palsy: The middle years.

This research aims to follow children with cerebral palsy through significant life-stage transitions and identify their participation levels in activities outside school.

Megan Thorley

Megan Thorley

Royal Children’s Hospital – Brisbane, Queensland

$10,000 over one year
Plaster cast to improve life for children with cerebral palsy

Casting is a procedure in which a child with cerebral palsy wears a plaster cast for a period. The aim is to lengthen tight muscles so joints become more flexible. While casting is common, there is little research into its effectiveness.

Megan Thorley and her colleagues’ research involved putting a series of plaster casts on approximately 66 children with restricted elbow movement. A number of different protocols were followed and were compared to see which is the most effective.

This research project has the potential to greatly improve the care of children with cerebral palsy, with improvements to their quality of life.

Megan Thorley is an occupational therapist working in Brisbane, Queensland who has extensive experience working with children with cerebral palsy. Megan completed her Masters degree by research at the University of Sydney.