Current projects Current projects

FestivApp
An innovative method for delivering Functional Strength Training exercises for the Upper Limb – a feasibility study

FeSTivAPP is a bespoke app that has been developed by colleagues at UEA, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust with industrial partner ApplinSkinner. The App will allow physiotherapists across the clinical stroke pathway to be able to prescribe arm exercises to stroke survivors with the aim of helping them to engage more with their exercise programme. The use of real-time video provides a better representation of the exercises than the current practice of ‘stickmen’ and the reminders and feedback built into the App should increase motivation as well as provide information regarding exercise frequency and duration for the physiotherapist.

This pilot study will determine the feasibility and acceptability of this intervention to stroke survivors and therapists.

 

ViaTherapy App Service Evaluation
Better rehabilitation methods for enhancing movement recovery after stroke to enable independent living

ViaTherapy is an App developed by a collaboration of world-renowned, interdisciplinary experts in stroke rehabilitation research.  ViaTherapy App is a tool that aids decision making about upper limb rehabilitation after stroke for the primary use of rehabilitation providers actively engaged in the rehabilitation of those with arm impairment after a stroke.  This service evaluation with one of our clinical partners will explore clinician acceptability of use of the App in community rehabilitation practice, using a service improvement model to underpin the work. The project aims to contribute to core NHS organisational values of innovation, professionalism and empowerment.

 

Rapid assessment of corticospinal neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is critical for neurorehabilitation. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can be used to measure corticospinal excitability, which is a surrogate marker for neuroplasticity. Both stimulus-response curves and excitability maps have been used in research studies to explore neuroplasticity. However, their clinical use is restricted by the time it takes to acquire the data (typically 10-15 min). We recently demonstrated that data to construct SR curves and excitability maps can be acquired in less than two minutes (Mathias et al. 2014, van de Ruit et al. 2015). We are developing these techniques so they may be used in the clinic, thus translating a laboratory-based measure into clinically-feasible measure of neuroplasticity.

Further information

 

Concussion in sport

Recent high profile incidences in professional sport and the media have highlighted the need for greater awareness and acknowledgment of concussion in sport. In practise, medical professionals at the side of the pitch have a very difficult return-to-play decision to make when faced with an athlete who may or may not be concussed. We are developing physiological-based tests that can be added to the toolkit thus providing more information for both the medical staff and the athlete. Our work at the University of East Anglia is being conducted in collaboration with the Trauma Centre at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. Work in our laboratory has been featured on BBC Panorama and BBC Inside-Out.

 

Processing of light touch for the control of postural stability during standing and walking in balance-impaired patients (LITPAC)

  • Funder: Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany (BMBF) in collaboration with the German Balance and Vertigo Centre (DSGZ) in Munich.
  • Key Contact: Dr Leif Johannsen

This project aims to investigate the cortical processes involved in the integration and disambiguation of task-specific haptic feedback for the control of sway in quiet standing. In neurologically healthy individuals, activity within specific cortical areas will be modulated by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and resulting behavioural effects on parameters of postural stability will be assessed. We expect that inhibition and excitation of activity within the posterior parietal cortices by TMS will regulate the efficiency of processes responsible for the integration and disambiguation of body sway-related tactile feedback. Behavioural data gained from healthy participants will be compared with behavioural data of individuals with circumscribed brain lesions. We also intend to evaluate in chronic stroke patients whether a training programme consisting of diverse exercises promoting the use of actively acquired sway-related light touch feedback results in permanently improved control strategies and postural stability during dynamic activities such as reaching while standing and over ground locomotion.
 

Robotic light touch support during locomotion in balance impaired humans (ROLITOS)

  • Funder: German Research Council (DFG) through the TUM International Graduate School of Science and Engineering (IGSSE)
  • Key Contact: Dr Leif Johannsen

Which qualities make an expert healthcare provider so efficient in the provision of adaptive manual support to balance-impaired patients? We believe the answer lies in the ability to anticipate a patient’s movement dynamics. We are interested in defining the specific perceptual, cognitive and motor skills experts in balance support and manual patient handling have acquired during their extensive clinical experience. We assume that expert support providers are not only more able to process and interpret visual and tactile information regarding their patient’s dynamics of sway and body excursions during dynamic postural activities but also more able to control and support the motion dynamics of the patient by the provision of light, finely adjusted contact to the patients’ body. The scientific aim of this project is to understand the interpersonal dynamics of light touch balance support in general and caregiver-patient interaction during light interpersonal touch stabilisation in particular. Our engineering aim is the translation of the principles of human-to-human interpersonal coordination for light tactile balance support into a robotic solution. The feasibility of a robotic solution for deliberately light postural support will be explored in balance-impaired individuals. A critical test will be participants’ state anxiety of falling in situations simulated postural threat.

 

Accelerometry-based evaluation of a relationship between repetitive head impacts and changes in cognitive-sensorimotor functions and structural brain anatomy in soccer players (KONTAKTS)

  • Funder: Federal Institute for Sport Science (BISP), Germany.
  • Key contact: Dr Leif Johannsen

Will repetitive but mild (subconcussive) head impacts such as headings pose a long-term health risk to soccer players? This project aims to assess mid-term changes in cognitive and sensorimotor functions as well as anatomical structures of the brain as a consequence of repetitive head impacts. Using quantitative head accelerometry, the frequency and intensity of all head impacts during training and competitive field play will be recorded and correlated with any systematic changes in neurocognitive functions and in brain structure.  In a prospective study we will follow two teams of male and female players of the regional football league in southern Germany across two soccer seasons to test whether the risk for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is higher in female players. We intend to inform the development of guidelines for the prevention of mTBI in soccer players.

 

PhD Programmes

  • Elisabetta Colucci: Enhancing clinical practice of motor restorative interventions after stroke and, in particular, issues of training dosage and its optimisation; devising and testing a new trial design and approaches for stroke rehabilitation research

  • Fiona Ellis: Exploring the use of Virtual Reality for post stroke motor rehabilitation

  • Ciara Shiggins: Increasing opportunities for functional communication learning in rehabilitation for people with aphasia post-stroke

  • Alison Welsh: The use of aerobic exercise within stroke rehabilitation to elicit improvements in cognitive function.