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Investigating novel methods for home-based stroke rehabilitation: combining action observation and motor imagery therapy with integrated technology

Project Description


1) Investigate the effectiveness of home-based combined action observation and motor imagery (AO+MI) therapy for improving post-stroke rehabilitation.
2) Assess the feasibility of different app-based technologies for supporting the delivery of this therapy.


Patient outcomes will be assessed in terms of improvements in life quality, mental health, and physical function.
Movement screening tools include the Action Reach Arm Test and Nine Hole Peg Test, with bespoke tasks designed to quantify speed and accuracy in the home-based AO+MI therapy movements.
An economic evaluation will establish cost-effectiveness of the programme, identifying optimal implementation strategies for embedding and normalising the programme beyond the study.

Methodology and innovations

At Manchester Metropolitan University, PH developed an iPad-based application for home-based movement therapy for stroke called: See, Imagine, Move; Upper Limb Action Therapy (SIMULATe). The public involvement and feasibility work has also developed and tested the usefulness of this application for rehabilitation in Parkinson’s disease patients. Users select from a library of functional everyday movements and engage in imitation and motor imagery to enhance their movement skills.
At Teesside University, DM develops digital approaches to health management. He has created immersive virtual reality platforms for supporting different patient groups, such as pain management in chronic pain suffers.
There is now a clear opportunity to develop these technologies further, in line with the specific needs of stroke survivors.

Phase 1:
Evaluate the user experience of technology supporting AO+MI therapy
Conduct a review of literature into home-based therapy techniques for rehabilitation in brain injured and neurodegenerative patients.
Triangulate the existing evidence from public involvement(PI) research.
Conduct a PI consultation with stroke survivors investigating rehabilitation, mental practice techniques, and the use of assistive technology.

- Evaluate user experience for SIMULATe in stroke survivors and practitioners. Users self-select a ‘playlist’ of functional everyday movements. They observe these actions whilst simultaneously imagining the sensations associated with executing the movement themselves, before practicing the action physically.
- Scope the potential for alternative technological innovations in the delivery of AO+MI therapy, such as immersive virtual reality platforms.

Phase 2:
Assess the feasibility and effects of AO+MI therapy via integrated digital technology
Pilot a randomised controlled trial (RCT).

Assess patient and practitioner views regarding perceived costs and benefits of the intervention.

The project plan will give clear direction to the student while allowing appropriate space for the student to develop their own ideas to facilitate ownership of the project.

Application Web Page

Applicants must apply using the online form on the University Alliance website at https://unialliance.ac.uk/dta/cofund/how-to-apply/. Full details of the programme, eligibility details and a list of available research projects can be seen at https://unialliance.ac.uk/dta/cofund/

Funding Notes

DTA3/COFUND participants will be employed for 36 months with a minimum salary of (approximately) £20,989 per annum. Tuition fees will waived for DTA3/COFUND participants who will also be able to access an annual DTA elective bursary to enable attendance at DTA training events and interact with colleagues across the Doctoral Training Alliance(s).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801604.

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