Current Studies

Study Of Neurophysiology In Childhood Concussion (SONICC)

How is the brain different in children with and without a concussion? We are doing this study to find out how small brain injuries affect the brain of children and youth in order to then design targeted and evidence-based rehabilitation programs.

Arrowsmith Brain Imaging Study

We’re still recruiting interested right-handed 9-17 year olds who are not currently or have not previously been enrolled in the Arrowsmith Program to participate in this study.

This research will be conducted at the University of British Columbia. If you are eligible and decide to participate, you will complete three MRI scans and two sessions of cognitive and educational testing over a one year period. Each MRI takes approximately 2 hours (with one hour of brain scanning), and each cognitive and educational testing sessions takes between 4-6 hours.

Exercise and Motor Learning

How does exercise impact motor learning? We're doing a study to examine the impact of exercise on the healthy aging and stroke affected brains ability to learn a new motor task. We do this by looking at the changes in your ability to do a motor task with practice (your motor learning) and looking at differences in that change between people who exercise and people who rest. We are using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to look at the neurological underpinnings for those changes and differences. To look at the study in more detail please click on the link above!

Individuals with early and severe upper limb impairment after stroke have the poorest prognosis for functional recovery. This project will build a data set that seeks to shed light on 'who recovers' and 'who does not recover' meaningful upper limb function by examining how the severely damaged brain changes over the first year post stroke. A series of brain scans and clinical tests of motor recovery will be performed on adults with severe upper limb impairment after their first stroke. Their upper limb use during training and real world settings will also be documented. This project will support the development of personalized training approaches that exploit an individual’s brain and functional reserve to maximize their motor recovery after stroke. This project is a collaboration between Professor Lara Boyd and Dr Kate Hayward from the Brain Behaviour Lab, and Professor Julie Bernhardt at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne Australia; and Professor Catherine Lang at Washington University Program in Physical Therapy, St Louis USA.

Consolidation of motor memories has been purported to take two forms: off-line improvements in behaviour that occur in between practice sessions, and memory stabilization, which maintains behavioural improvements by reducing the fragility or susceptibility to interference by other motor actions. While these two elements of motor consolidation are not completely independent of one another, the degree to which they interact and/or rely on unique neural structures remains unclear. To reveal the brain regions supporting consolidation it is first necessary to identify those areas that are directly activated during consolidation. Using TMS to disrupt the function of these activated areas is one approach that allows the determination of which areas are essential for consolidation.

An essential component to more fully understanding motor memory consolidation is determining whether the two brain hemispheres interact during this process. It is clear that both hemispheres participate in motor learning. Despite data showing changes in bilateral brain activity associated with motor learning and evidence for interhemispheric connectivity, no work has systematically considered whether the ipsilateral hemisphere plays a role in motor memory consolidation.

The inter-hemispheric contributions to motor learning after injury are being investigated using stroke as a model. After stroke, cortical excitability is decreased in the ipsilesional and increased in the contralesional primary motor cortices (M1). Combined, these changes hamper hemiparetic arm use and functional recovery. In collaboration with Dr Todd Handy, Department of Psychology at UBC and Dr Sean Meehan, Department of Kinesiology University of Michigan, we are considering how the hemispheres interact by using brain stimulation to alter the excitability of selected ipsilateral brain regions and assessing their contributions to both motor learning and memory consolidation.

A study from our group (Edwards et al., 2011) showed that cortical motor excitability, measured using transcranial magnetic stimulation, is altered in the affected hemisphere after TIA even two weeks after the event. Diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) can detect early ischemic changes after TIA and correlates with clinical features (e.g., ABCD2 score), improving the predictive value for stroke risk after TIA. However, the proportion of individuals that demonstrate DWI abnormalities after TIA is highly variable, and DWI-negativity does not exclude an ischemic event. Thus, we are continuing our investigation of the utility of TMS in maximizing diagnostic accuracy after TIA.

In collaboration with Dr Carlo Menon, Assistant Professor at Simon Frasier University, and the MENRVA Research Group, the lab is actively developing a novel rehabilitation method that combines cutting edge brain stimulation and robotics to facilitate active UE movements, improve joint range of motion, and promote functional recovery after stroke. Recovery will be indexed by changes in muscle contraction and activity, brain plasticity as indexed with TMS paired-pulse mapping, and functional outcome measures of motor recovery.

DTI is a MRI technique that measures the diffusion properties of water molecules in tissue. Importantly, this technique provides quantitative measures of the structural integrity of white matter in the brain. The lab is investigating how disruption of white matter tracts affects motor recovery and learning after stroke. In addition, in collaboration with Dr Naznin Virji-Babul, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at UBC, we are considering whether this technique can assist in developing imaging “signatures” of concussion.

Increased reliance on attention for walking in the elderly has been demonstrated by decreased performance under dual task conditions (i.e., walking and talking). The attentionally demanding nature of gait in the elderly has been interpreted as reflecting a level of cortical involvement in walking. However, no work exists to unequivocally demonstrate cortical control during walking under dual task conditions. To determine the impact of age on dual task performance, individuals will undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging while simultaneously stepping on a MRI compatible ergometric device and performing a cognitive task. We expect that understanding the neurobiological bases of dual task performance in older adults will facilitate the formulation of directed therapies designed to reduce falls during multitasking. This work is a collaborative effort with Assistant Professor Dr Teresa Liu-Ambrose and Professor Dr Janice Eng from the Department of Physical Therapy at UBC.