Research Fellow & Group Leader
OSMR Career Development Fellow
Conjoint Lecturer, School of Medical Sciences, UNSW
+612 9399 1074
Penelope McNulty (PhD) graduated from UNSW in 2001. After working at the University of Rochester, NY, USA on a Schmitt Fellowship she moved to the Sydney University during the first years of a NHMRC post-doctoral fellowship, before returning to NeuRA in 2007.
She studies human neurophysiology of the sensory and motor systems in healthy subjects and those with stroke and spinal cord injury including recording from single sensory receptors and stimulating single motor units. Current studies include investigations of a novel rehabilitation tool after stroke using Wii therapy, and how this changes the way the brain controls force during voluntary movement after stroke and with healthy ageing.
Successful rehabilitation after stroke is limited by many factors including trained personnel, equipment, time and money.
Every year more than 60,000 Australians suffer a stroke and this number will only increase with the aging population the growing epidemics of obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes.
We know that the ability to detect contact with the skin changes with age. These changes might occur in the sensory receptors that lie in the skin, in the nerves that transmit sensory signals from the receptors to the brain, in the processing of sensory signals in the brain, or in the properties of the skin itself.
Measuring how well people can drive their muscle to produce maximum forces tells us a lot about the voluntary control of movement. We know that muscle strength decreases as people get older, particularly after the age of 70. Despite the loss of strength, the ability to drive muscles in maximum efforts does not deteriorate with age.
Very little is known about the way in which the body controls voluntary movement changes after stroke, or which neurophysiological structures cause such changes.
There are 350-400 new cases of spinal cord injury in Australia every year. These injuries cause sudden and devastating changes in patients’ ability to live independently. Surveys have shown that people living with a spinal cord injury list improved hand control second only to bladder and bowel control.
Skin sensation, or the ability to detect contact on the skin, declines with age. Manual dexterity and fine motor control of the hand also decline with age.
TERRY TRINH Masters student
This post hoc analysis examined a suite of upper limb functional assessment tools to test the hypothesis that motor function of survivors of stroke can be stratified using 2 simple tests of manual dexterity despite the heterogeneity of the population. Two simple unambiguous and objective tests of gross (BBT) and fine (grooved pegboard test) manual dexterity discriminated 3 groups of motor function ability for a heterogeneous group of patients after stroke.
This study investigated the effect of bilateral priming before Wii-based Movement Therapy to improve rehabilitation after stroke. Bilateral priming before Wii-based Movement Therapy led to a greater magnitude and retention of improvement compared to control, especially measured with the FMA. These data suggest that bilateral priming can enhance the efficacy of Wii-based Movement Therapy, particularly for patients with low motor function after a stroke.
This study demonstrates that Wii-based Movement Therapy is an effective upper limb rehabilitation poststroke with high patient compliance. It is as effective as modified Constraint-induced Movement Therapy for improving more affected upper limb movement and increased independence in activities of daily living.