Exercising for stroke-injured
It is a now a commonly held belief that exercise is good not only for the body but also for the brain.
But pinning down just how and why that might be the case is the focus of a new study at UniSA targeted at Australians who have suffered from brain damage due to an unexpected event, such as a stroke.
Associate Professor Jon Buckley and Dr Michelle McDonnell from UniSA’s School of Health Sciences have recently received an Annual Research Award from the Brain Foundation to explore the potential of physical exercise in improving recovery for stroke victims.
Dr McDonnell says the brain injury caused by stroke can interrupt the wiring in the brain that controls movement in arms and legs.
"Rehabilitation is a vital part of an overall recovery regime because it aims to create new neural connections - a kind of alternative wiring," Dr McDonnell says.
"We now know that in order to recover, the damaged brain needs to become ‘plastic’ – malleable and open to these kinds of changes.
"There is tantalising evidence that aerobic exercise makes the brain more plastic – and that’s what we’re going to test with this award from the Brain Foundation."
The research is part of a larger study being undertaken in conjunction with the Centre for Physical Activity in Ageing, at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre, investigating the benefits of exercise for people following stroke.
"We believe exercise might actually encourage re-wiring of the brain so we’re keen to investigate with both healthy volunteers and people who have suffered a stroke," she says.
"We’re also interested in other benefits of exercise, such as improving thinking and memory skills and independence following a stroke."
Dr McDonnell is leading the study to investigate the effect of exercise on the brain and is looking for healthy volunteers aged 18-60 plus adults who have suffered a stroke.