Digitally created arm showing muscles, bones, veins and arteries

Improving hand function after stroke

RESEARCH STUDY

Stroke often affects both our ability of our hands to feel and our ability to contract muscles. Sensory and motor functions are tightly linked. Yet, most rehabilitation strategies aimed at regaining dexterity after stroke largely focus only on motor recovery.

We have previously found that some stroke patients have a disorganised touch perception map. When a patient is touched in one location on the hand while their eyes are closed, they feel it in some other location.  There is little awareness of this condition, and it is generally not detected during routine neurological examination as even patients themselves are not aware of it.

Our recent study revealed that it is possible to correct this scrambled map, leading to improved motor functioning. This new evidence means that we can now focus on creating new rehabilitation strategies that can help patients to regain normal sensation and fine motor skill after a stroke.

If you would like to obtain information how to volunteer in research on stroke please contact Dr Ingvars Birznieks, Tel 9399 1672, i.birznieks@neura.edu.au

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Cortical activity during balance tasks in ageing and clinical groups using functional near-infrared spectroscopy

Prof Stephen Lord, Dr Jasmine Menant Walking is not automatic and requires attention and brain processing to maintain balance and prevent falling over. Brain structure and function deteriorate with ageing and neurodegenerative disorders, in turn impacting both cognitive and motor functions.   This series of studies will investigate: How do age and/or disease- associated declines in cognitive functions affect balance control? How is this further impacted by psychological, physiological and medical factors (eg. fear, pain, medications)? How does the brain control these balance tasks?     Approach The experiments involve experimental paradigms that challenge cognitive functions of interest (eg.visuo-spatial working memory, inhibitory function). I use functional near-infrared spectroscopy to study activation in superficial cortical regions of interest (eg. prefrontal cortex, supplementary motor area…). The studies involve young and older people as well as clinical groups (eg.Parkinson’s disease).   Studies Cortical activity during stepping and gait adaptability tasks Effects of age, posture and task condition on cortical activity during reaction time tasks Influence of balance challenge and concern about falling on brain activity during walking Influence of lower limb pain/discomfort on brain activity during stepping   This research will greatly improve our understanding of the interactions between brain capacity, functions and balance control across ageing and diseases, psychological, physiological and medical factors, allows to identify targets for rehabilitation. It will also help identifying whether exercise-based interventions improve neural efficiency for enhanced balance control.
PROJECT