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Tue, 5 Jul 2022

Innovative stroke recovery research

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James Cook University researchers are testing an innovative new way to help stroke survivors regain arm movement and learn to speak again, and they are looking for volunteers for the research project.

Ruth Barker, Associate Professor of Rehabilitation at JCU, is chief investigator at the trial site in Townsville. She said losing arm, hand, and language functions after a stroke affects 1 in 6 survivors three-months after a stroke.

“Sites in the brain used for language function and for arm and hand function sit closely together, so the idea is if we train these areas of the brain together, we'll get a better recovery,” said Dr Barker.

She said the trial program, called UPLIFT (UPper limb and Language Impairment and Functional Training) will provide rehabilitation for stroke survivors that will target brain centres for both arm and language function.

“We have to work out how much training to give to maximise recovery and how exactly to do that training, which is what the UPLIFT trial aims to do,” said Dr Barker.

Researchers are recruiting people who have had a stroke 3 – 24 months ago and have arm movement and communication problems.

Over time, the study will be recruiting a total of 160 participants from Townsville, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne.

Participants in this Townsville trial will need to attend a minimum of two appointments, possibly more, in Townsville.

After initial assessments, taking part in the trial will involve 2 or 4 hours, 5 days per week for 4 weeks, either at a clinic or via telehealth at home.

Dr Barker said the trial is also recruiting physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and assistants for the roles of assessor and rehabilitation therapists.

The trial started in June and will run for 18 months, using rehabilitation rooms and videoconferencing facilities at AITHM’s Translational Research Facility in Townsville.

The trial site in Townsville is a collaboration between the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine and the Townsville University Hospital, with rehabilitation physician Dr Paul Chapman as site coordinator.

Support for the trial is also being provided by JCU lecturer in Physiotherapy Dr Moira Smith and JCU PhD student Bridee Neibling.

In addition to Townsville, the UPLIFT trial includes investigators in Melbourne (University of Melbourne, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Austin Hospital), Brisbane (University of Queensland, STARS, RBWH), Perth (Edith Cowan University and Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital), and Adelaide (Royal Adelaide Hospital).

The nation-wide trial is being led by JCU College of Healthcare Science graduate Dr Kate Hayward, now based at the University of Melbourne.

If you are interested in participating, please email ruth.barker@jcu.edu.au