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Investigation of Neuroplasticity and Recovery after Stroke using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Niamh Kennedy
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The 3-year research investigation for this studentship will focus on advancing knowledge of the neurophysiological mechanisms of movement recovery after stroke. This knowledge is needed to: (a) identify the targets for the provision of rehabilitation intervention to drive motor recovery; (b) development of rehabilitation interventions that can drive movement recovery mechanisms; and (c) identify what to measure clinically to enable rapid decisions about whether or not any specific intervention is likely to drive movement recovery. Thus the research will have direct relevance to the real world provision of rehabilitation for people after stroke.

Stroke survivors often do not make a full recovery, upper limb function in particular can be functionally impaired long term. There is a need to look at current rehabilitation techniques to build upon these and to develop new techniques to further improve patient’s outcomes. This in part may come from a better understanding of how the brain recovers after stroke.
Non-invasive brain stimulation is being used to help us better understand the mechanisms of recovery in patients following stroke and acquired brain injury. These techniques such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) or Transcranial direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) allow us to measure and potentially modulate changes in neuroplasticity in the brain.
Experimental research findings indicate that measures of neurophysiological function can identify the underlying mechanisms of movement recovery. Required now is a greater understanding of how to translate these discoveries into real benefit for people with movement difficulty after stroke.

Project description
The research can involve one or more of:
 The use of non-invasive Brain Stimulation such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) or Transcranial direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to investigate correlates of movement recovery in response to specific rehabilitation interventions;
 Use of Non-invasive brain stimulation to enhance or adapt neuroplastic changes in the brain
 Iterative working with clinicians and/or stroke survivors to ascertain how neurophysiological measures should be incorporated into routine stroke rehabilitation.

The research is congruent with our areas of strength in neuroscience and rehabilitation science. Precise protocols for research studies will be developed through the supervisors and student working together

Research environment
The supervisory team are members of the Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation Alliance (ABIRA): a multi-disciplinary, international research group. The student will be immersed into ABIRA and expertise available includes: neurophysiology; physiotherapy; movement science; medical statistics; health economics; and early phase evaluation of complex interventions. The immediate environment also includes: a state-of-the-art movement analysis laboratory (neurophysiology and biomechanics) and industrial collaborations for development of neuroscience-based rehabilitation technology. The wider research environment includes: the Norwich Clinical Trials Unit; the NEAT Centre (new and emerging applications of technology); and a personal and professional development programme tailored for individual students. The research training environment is therefore optimised to enhance employability post-PhD.

Candidates should have at least an upper second class first or a Masters degree in an area with relevance to the research area for the studentship. This includes, but is not exclusive to: Neuroscience, Movement science, Psychology, Physiotherapy and Occupational therapy. If participants in the studies are NHS patients then the student will require CRB clearance. Registration with a clinical professional body is not essential.

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