Researchers need to compare test results in people who have and haven’t had strokes to help them find out more about how stress affects a person’s recovery after stroke.

High stress levels change the brain’s chemistry, making healing after stroke difficult.

This study will monitor stress levels in people who have had stroke at least 9 months ago. It will look at how their recovery is progressing and whether they are experiencing significant stress levels.

Researchers also need people who haven’t had strokes to make comparisons. 

The study is being supported by a research grant from the John Hunter Hospital Charitable Trust Fund.

Who can participate in the research?

  • People who have had a stroke at least 9 months ago.
  • People who have never had a stroke

You will not be able to participate in this study if you have a history of pituitary and adrenal gland diseases.

Why is the research being done?

People recovering from stroke often report high and ongoing levels of psychological stress. High levels of stress hormones, most notably cortisol, are known to impair the brain repair and brain remodelling processes. High stress limits neuroplasticity and recovery.

Until recently, it has been difficult to monitor the levels of stress hormones in people over extended time periods.  We have now established a technology to measure cortisol from a simple hair sample at HMRI. This first study of people later after stroke is the first of its kind in Australia.  

If this pilot trial is successful, it will inform future large-scale community-focused monitoring and the development of treatments for stress for people with stroke.

What would you be asked to do?

If you are happy to participate, you will be asked to come to HMRI for a once-only appointment of about 2 hours. The research team can organise and pay for a taxi for you if you can’t drive to us. You may be seen by one or more of the following researchers:

  • Dr Prajwal Gyawali
  • Wei Zhen (‘Adele’) Chow, PhD candidate
  • Dr Lin Ong

During your appointment you will be asked to:

  1. Complete surveys – 30min

Give information on your health and function, stress levels, how you are coping, thinking skills, fatigue, depression and anxiety.

  1. Provide a blood sample

Provide a blood sample from a vein in your arm, about a teaspoon’s worth, to analyse stress markers such as cortisol.

  1. Provide a hair sample

Provide a small sample of hair from your head which will be tested in a laboratory to analyse stress levels. The hair will be taken from the back of the skull (in the middle). About 50 strands of hair will be secured as close to the scalp as possible and cut with a pair of scissors.

Study participant Helene Rabbit said participating in this study was easy, interesting and left her with a sense of hope

Participant Information Statement

I have had a stroke - click here to download the Participant Information Statement

I have not had a stroke - click here to download the Participant Information Statement

Lead Researchers: Conjoint Associate Professor Michael Pollack, Professor Michael Nilsson, Associate Professor Rohan Walker, Dr Lin Kooi Ong

It builds on the work of A/Prof Rohan Walker’s team – which you can read more about here.

Register your interest

To find out more or to register your interest please contact Dr Prajwal Gyawali on 02 404 20759 or

Hunter Stroke Research Register

This study is also inviting people from the Hunter Stroke Research Volunteer Register to participate. To be invited to participate in other studies in stroke rehabilitation and recovery, register here.