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Professor Paulette van Vliet

Professor Paulette van Vliet - Stroke Rehabilitation Researcher

What are your research interests?

Increasing the amount of arm and hand recovery after stroke - 77% people with stroke have arm and hand impairment and currently only half regain functional arm and hand movement at six months after stroke. We aim to increase the effectiveness of therapy by designing and testing treatments likely to boost brain recovery.

Empowering people with stroke to manage their own arm and hand recovery. Many people have potential to recover greater arm and hand function after being discharged from hospital and outpatient therapy. Further gains can occur if people continue to do appropriate and sufficient practice.

Targeting arm and hand rehabilitation to the type of stroke. Neuroimaging and analysis of motor performance with motion capture systems now provide us with more specific information about the lesion than was previously available. This information can be used to tailor treatment more to the individual.

Why did you get into research?

I want to make a difference to how much arm/hand recovery people obtain after stroke. Life is limited without two working arms! Much as I enjoy treating patients one-to-one, I thought I could have a greater effect by making research discoveries that could guide practice.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

My vision is to increase amount of arm and hand recovery, give patients knowledge and tools to empower them to manage their own recovery, and target treatment more to the individual. Making our new ArMM device available to all people who need it will help to achieve these aims. ArMM is  a portable measure of motor control developed by our team at HMRI and the University of Newcastle.

Biography

Professor Paulette van Vliet is a mid-career researcher with an excellent international track record for stroke rehabilitation research. She trained as a physiotherapist in Australia, then became inspired to improve upper limb function on a larger scale and so embarked on her research career.

Professor van Vliet's research began in the UK where she completed her MSc degree (funded by International Rotary scholarship). She progressed from Research Fellow to Associate Professor at the Universities of Nottingham and Birmingham, then returned to Australia as a Professor in 2011 to take up an ARC Future Fellowship, and join a nationally leading stroke research group at University of Newcastle.

Since then, she has become a key player in the Australian network of stroke researchers, exemplified by being among a national team awarded a grant from the NHMRC for a Centre for Research Excellence in Stroke Rehabilitation in 2015. Her work has resulted in the development of significant new treatments including ‘functional strength training’, and a new combined sensory and motor training intervention for the arm.

Innovation is also demonstrated by a mulitdisciplinary commercial partnership she has set up to invent, fund and build a portable arm motor rehab device (ArMM) which provides feedback about upper limb motor control to participants, therapists and researchers for  which she and her team recently won an NHMRC grant. In total, the grants obtained throughout Professor Paulette van Vliet's career amount to $6.8 million. She has a strong interest in passing on knowledge to clinicians and has accepted 70+ invitations to run upper limb stroke workshops for therapists. She also has 87 publications in the area of arm and hand recovery after stroke.

What is your focus for the future?

I hope to substantially improve quality of life for people after stroke by improving the amount of arm and hand recovery they achieve. I do this both through my research and my teaching to postgraduate therapists. Recovery of arm function can continue for years so we need to develop ways in which the person can practice at home on their own. New technologies will help to achieve this, as well as giving people the knowledge they need to monitor and progress their practice.

Specialised / Technical Skills

  • Clinical trials phase 1-3
  • Motion capture to obtain biomechanical measurements
  • Application of neuroscience knowledge to clinical practice

Affiliations