AExaCTT – Aerobic Exercise and Consecutive Task-specific Training – is a pilot study run by University of Newcastle/HMRI stroke rehabilitation researchers to investigate whether aerobic exercise done before practice of arm and hand movements can enhance the brain’s ability to reorganise and recover neural connections after stroke.
While stroke causes a wide variety of problems, researchers are specifically looking at upper limb mobility but are using exercise bikes to work the patient’s legs.
“We think that the aerobic benefits can enhance the brain’s ability to relearn motor skills which will then flow through to the arms,” trial coordinator Sarah Valkenborghs explained.
Task-specific training such as practising the movements needed for reaching and grasping everyday objects and using a knife and fork is used alongside the aerobic exercise to help stroke victims become more independent.
Pilot study recruit Joanna is half way through the eight-week intervention and showing promising improvements in dexterity. Currently residing in an aged care, she could barely use her left arm when first enrolled.
“Joanna phoned me at the office recently to say ‘guess what, I picked up the phone in my left hand to call you’,” Miss Valkenborghs said.
“She is practising eating with a knife and fork again, hanging her laundry out and, because she loved playing cards before her stroke, we’re refining her fine-pinch techniques and coordination to be able to play again.”
The team is aiming to expand the trial early next year and will be seeking participants. Please contact Sarah.Valkenborghs@uon.edu.au or phone (02) 4042 0819.
* Sarah Valkenborghs is a PhD student from the University of Newcastle, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Brain and Mental Health program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the Community.