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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 Clinical Neuroplasticity and Neurorehabilitation Sciences. 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 functional movement, sensorimotor skills and brain network integrity following acquired brain injury such as a stroke and during neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. Feel free to see how we are achieving our mission and contact us at d.l.turner@uel.ac.uk .

Our Mission

The main thrust of our work involves using robotics, sophisticated brain imaging technologies and theoretical mathematical and neurocomputational modelling. We use this mixture of engineering and physical science disciplines in translational and clinical research programmes in healthy subjects and neurological patients within the NRU.

This interdisciplinary approach offers an exciting insight into how clinical interventions may impact on brain anatomy and function. Pivotal to our approaches, is the fact that the brain is capable of a high degree of neuroplasticity throughout healthy ageing and in response to brain dysfunction.

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 UK.

 - 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 three main Health Themes for improving quality of life through research and clinical trials. These are:

 - Acquired brain injury such as a Stroke
 - Neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s disease
 - Enhancing brain function in natural ageing

Many individuals with neurological deficits can fulfil potential by benefitting from a more integrated use of cutting edge technology involving human-machine interfaces and interactions.

The aim of the NRU is to draw together research expertise from different academic / clinical specialties in neurorehabilitation into an interdisciplinary, ground breaking force for change.

The NRU has expertise in neuroscience, physiology, psychology, bioengineering, mathematics and rehabilitation medicine and works together with partners in the NHS and industry. This synergy significantly 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 are progressive [e.g. Parkinson's disease].

We are actively recruiting to RATULS from April 2014. Further information on the trial is available at: Ratlus.

We are planning to recruit to this trial in 2017. This trial will be open to community stroke survivors who have left NHS care and rehabilitation support. Further information on the trial is available at StrokeLearner .
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.

We are currently developing a research project in how well Parkinson’s disease patients walk in real-world scenarios and how the brain adapts to dealing with complicated multi-tasking. We are recruiting patients for our local movement disorders clinics in East London.

We are currently developing several research projects using neurofeedback as a way to improve clinical symptoms in conditions where movement is impaired or disrupted. 

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 neurorehabilitation 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 analysis with a neuronavigation system.

Presently, we are also developing research in lower limb function using gait biomechanics and real-world locomotion. We have been developing fully wireless motion and brain imaging (MOBI) systems for studying subjects and patients in complicated urban environments and eventually in their own homes.
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 was the Vice-Chairperson of a new EU-funded international consortium called "The European Network on Robots for Neurorehabilitation". The main aims of the network were to design new robotic devices and to standardise approaches to their use in augmenting recovery after brain injury across the EU and beyond (COST Action TD1006).

The key reviews strongly suggest that the important aspect of therapeutic robotic use is repetition, repetition and repetition and that the devices can be used as “just another piece of gym equipment” whether the gym is in a Stroke Unit or Movement Disorders Clinic 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 neurological conditions (see publications).


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

Email: d.l.turner@uel.ac.uk