Page 16-17 - NeuRA 2013 in Review

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Stroke alters the brain’s view
of the hand
Researchers have uncovered a new effect of stroke,
where the brain develops an inaccurate map of the
hand. They examined a stroke patient’s hand using
a fine-scale method of non-painful touch.
Of the 25 locations tested, the patient correctly
identified only one spot where they were being
touched. Instead, when a finger was touched the
patient sometimes felt the touch in the palm, adjacent
fingers, or a different spot on the same finger.
We are now testing for the same effect in more
stroke survivors, and this research may affect
rehabilitation strategies. Currently, rehabilitation
focusses on regaining movement in order to recover
hand and arm function. But this new research shows
how sensory dysfunction could be one of the key
factors to determine poor recovery of hand dexterity
after stroke.
Broadband delivery of rehabilitation
Opened in October 2012, the Broadband Smart
Home in Armidale demonstrates many of the
real-world applications of faster broadband.
Researchers at NeuRA took part in developing
some of these applications, including a new stroke
rehabilitation therapy utilising the Nintendo Wii.
Already, our research has shown that an
intensive, two-week Wii-based Movement Therapy
can significantly improve the way stroke patients
are able to use their limbs, even if they had a
stroke many years ago. It was previously thought
that the movement and function stroke patients
had at 5-24 months post-stroke was the only
recovery they would make. This therapy can be
delivered online, and is set to be trialed shortly.
For more information on all research
projects, visit
Your Body | 15
The effects of
sleeping pills on sleep apnoea
Several studies are being
conducted at NeuRA to determine
the causes of sleep apnoea.
Obstructive sleep apnoea affects at
least 5-10% of the Australian adult
population, and is characterised by
repetitive narrowing or closure of
the airway between the back of the
nose and throat, which interrupts
sleep. If untreated, sleep apnoea
can cause daytime sleepiness,
hypertension, and is associated
with increased risk of stroke and
cardiovascular disease. The main
treatment, called CPAP therapy,
involves wearing a mask during
sleep that blows air into the nose to
keep the airway open. It is very
effective, but over 50% of patients
cannot tolerate the therapy.
Several studies are being conducted
at NeuRA to determine the causes
of sleep apnoea, and the effect of
common sleeping pills on sleep and
breathing. Certain pills may help
some patients with sleep apnoea,
but worsen outcomes in others.
Clockwise from top left:
A research volunteer tests a CPAP mask;
Dr Penelope McNulty works with a post-stroke patient on Wii-based
Movement Therapy; Mapping inaccurate touch points on the hand after
stroke; Imaging the throats of people with (far left) no sleep apnoea,
mild sleep apnoea and (far right) severe sleep apnoea.