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Ulster Research To Aid Stroke Patients

7 March 2011

Scientists at the University of Ulster are undertaking important research into rehabilitation techniques to help suffers of stroke.

Researchers from Ulster’s Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Research Institute (HRSRI) are examining the effects of an innovative treatment called constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) on attention, memory, self-awareness and arm movement recovery on stroke patients.

CMIT is most commonly used in the United States and at the University of Ulster this week delegates from across Europe will attend a four-day training course from internationally renowned expert in this field Dr David Morris from the University of Alabama’s CI Therapy Research Group.

With CIMT, the stroke survivor’s unaffected arm is constrained, forcing the patient to use his or her affected arm repetitively and intensively for two weeks. Patients using CIMT have reported marked improvements in the use of their stroke arm even many years after their stroke.

Dr Sheila Lennon, from Ulster’s HRSRI, said: “Therapists are expected to remain up to date with new interventions and to implement research evidence into their practice. This course at Ulster provides an opportunity for health care professionals to engage with cutting-edge international researchers and clinicians. We would like to extend our welcome to Dr Morris who has been working on CIMT with Professor Taub, the founder of CIMT, since 1994 and whose valuable input can impact on the treatment’s delivery throughout Europe.

“The work of the researchers within the HRSRI is patient focused and aims to improve the lives of those who have suffered a stroke. No one to date has studied whether CIMT can be used in people with mild to moderate cognitive impairment; this research team is also studying cognitive factors such as attention, memory and self awareness which may impact on patient performance in relation to CIMT.”

Professor Gert Kwakkel, from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, and the Rudolf Magnus Institute in Utrecht Netherlands, will also deliver master classes on recovery and care for the upper limb after stroke to delegates from across Europe.  

Dr David Morris, an Associate Professor in the University of Alabama (Division of Physical Therapy) and Training Coordinator for the UAB CIMT Research Programme is the key facilitator of the course.

Course participants will be able to hear first hand about the experience of a stroke survivor who has used CIMT. The therapists’ view on the practicalities of delivering CIMT will be presented by Heather Glenn and Laura Wheatley-Smith, expert clinicians from the Regional Acquired Brian Injury Unit (RABIU) in Belfast. They have been involved in the ongoing research trial based at RABIU led by the Neurorehabilitation for Health hub at the University of Ulster.