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NeuroRehabilitation Unit (NRU)

About us

Welcome to the NeuroRehabilitation Unit (NRU). My name is Professor Duncan Turner and I am the Director of the NRU. Our expertise is in Restorative Neuroscience and Rehabilitation. I hope you find the information helpful in choosing to become involved in our work.

Our vision is to employ state-of-the-art assistive technology to enhance recovery of functional movement, intricate sensory awareness and communicative skills following stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and cerebral palsy. Feel free to see how we are achieving our mission and contact us at nru@uel.ac.uk

Our Mission
The main thrust of our work involves using adaptive robotics, assistive technology and modern neuroimaging technologies in an innovative hub for their development within the NRU.

Together they offer an exciting insight into how clinical interventions impact on brain function. Pivotal to our approaches, is the fact that the brain is capable of a high degree of neuroplasticity throughout healthy development and ageing. Indeed, we are also interested in how to use indices of brain function to activate robots and computers when movement is not possible.

To take advantage of these technologies in answering our questions we:

  • Undertake clinical trials with NHS and non-NHS partners in the NIHR Clinical Research Network for the North Thames Region and with partners across the EU.
  • Participate as a research hub in the UCL Partners Centre for Neurorehabilitation and perform groundbreaking research with international collaborators.
  • Offer knowledge exchange to develop products into clinical use with industry partners.
Feel free to see how we are achieving our mission in different health themes.

Health Themes

The NRU has developed four Health Themes for improving quality of life through research and clinical trials. These are:
  • Stroke
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Healthy Brain Function in Natural Ageing
These conditions may occur in early prenatal/infant development, throughout childhood and adolescence and at several stages of adulthood. The symptoms may include sensory and movement impairments, learning disabilities and cognitive deficits which impair social interaction and effective communication.

Many of those individuals with these conditions can fulfill potential by benefitting from a more integrated use of cutting edge technology involving human-robot interactions and computer games which mimic real-life scenarios.

The aim of the NRU is to draw together research expertise from different academic / clinical specialties in rehabilitation medicine and science into an interdisciplnary, ground breaking force for change.

The NRU has expertise in neuroscience, psychology, engineering, rehabilitation medicine and allied health professions and works together with partners in the NHS and industry. This synergy signfiicantly speeds up the translation of state-of-the-art design of robotics and virtual reality into deliverable clinical trials and interventions.

The NRU can offer a “Test-Tube” approach to knowledge exchange to exploit new technological developments presently residing in the business and entrepreneurial community.

Clinical Trials

The NRU has a mission to enhance the quality of life and potential of community members who live with central nervous system injury (CNS) by undertaking clinical trials. Such interventions can be designed for use early after brain injury [e.g. acute and subacute stages of recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury], once the brain has recovered function somewhat [e.g. in chronic stages of stroke recovery] or in circumstances where the symptoms of brain injury have been present for some time or progressive[e.g. spinal cord injury or Parkinson's disease].

Stroke Rehabilitation:

We are actively recruiting to RATULS from April 2014. Further information on the trial is available at: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/ratuls/.

We are planning to recruit to this trial in the near future. This trial will be open to community stroke survivors who have left NHS care and rehabilitation support. We will announce the start date for possible inclusion here.
One of our UCL Partners offers a referral clinic that provides multidisciplinary treatment for neurological upper limb deficits secondary to central nervous disease. Further information on the clinic is available at: UCLP Centre for Neurorehabilitation.

Movement Disorders
We are currently seeking funding to start a robot-therapy trial for adults with Parkinson's disease.

Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation and Brain-Robot interfaces
We are developing human-robot interfaces for improving communication in individuals with little or no movement capabilities.

The NRU is also developing research for improving quality of life in similar areas.

Research that counts

We use robotics designed for upper arm reaching, wrist movements, hand grasping and finger/thumb pinching (Interactive Motion Technologies Inc.; SensAble Technologies Inc. both based in the USA) and virtual reality for therapy research. To monitor and modify brain function, we use neuroimaging technologies such as high-density 128 channel EEG with simultaneous non-invasive brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic and direct current stimulation [TMS / tDCS] employing motion anaylsis with a neuronavigation system.

Presently, we have been studying predominantly upper limb function with these technologies but we also have undertaken research in lower limb function using gait biomechanics and cycling machines. Most recently, we have been studying the control of balance and posture during reaching whilst standing in a healthy ageing population.
We have engaged with patient groups and therapists to design more effective clinical trials and interventions for physical recovery from brain damage in the UK. Our collaborations with colleagues in USA and EU are leading to distinctive changes in how therapy can be maximised in terms of offering a significantly higher intensity of movement training. To this end, Professor Turner is the Vice-Chairperson of a new EU-funded international consortium called "The European Network on Robots for Neurorehabilitation". The main aims of the network are to design new robotic devices and to standardise approaches to their use in augmenting recovery after brain injury across europe and beyond (COST Action).

The key publications strongly suggest that the important aspect of therapeutic robotic use is repetition, repetition, repetition and that the devices can be used as “just another piece of gym equipment” whether the gym is in a Stroke Unit of a hospital, in a community Leisure Centre or Neighbourhood Stroke Survivors Club.
We are continually aware of substantial technical developments in both hardware and software design of many new types of potentially useful human-machine and human-computer interfaces. Therefore, we have developed standardised ways of monitoring brain activity when subjects imagine or observe motor tasks or gestures undertaken by other agents – both human and artificial. The results of our primary research assist knowledge exchange with industry.

We think these novel approaches will offer further benefit in our main health themes in order to improve quality of life to patients with CNS dysfunction as a result of spinal injury and cerebral palsy or when movement becomes increasingly more difficult such as in progressive neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease.

Publications

Contact us

The NRU has several locations where its work is in action.

Our base is the fully accessible NeuroRehabilitation Unit hosted by the School of Health, Sport and Bioscience, Stratford Campus, University of East London. Here is a map of how to get there from Stratford transportation hubs:
  • Stratford Campus information including directions on getting here
  • Stratford Campus Map
The NRU is a research hub in the UCL Partners Centre for Neurorehabilitation which spans north and east London NHS Trusts and Universities.

Email: nru@uel.ac.uk