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Thursday, July 16, 2009

NHMRC funding for UQ brain injury research

University of Queensland researchers will use a $2.5 million grant to help people who have suffered an acquired brain injury communicate with the world.

The recent National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding will establish a new Centre for Clinical Research Excellence (CCRE) in Aphasia Rehabilitation at UQ, led by Professor Linda Worrall.

Aphasia is the loss of communication following a stroke or traumatic brain injury. People with these communication difficulties struggle to find the words to express themselves, and may have difficulties in understanding what others say, as well as difficulties with reading and writing.

The CCRE will unite two complementary, but independent, approaches in aphasia rehabilitation into a single combined approach that will optimise treatment outcomes.

The centre aims to do this through the development of an Australian Aphasia Rehabilitation Pathway, working in close collaboration with speech pathologists and consumers.

UQ researchers, Professor Worrall and Dr Bronwyn Davidson of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, will collaborate with Dr David Copland of the UQ Centre for Clinical Research and peers from the Universities of Sydney, Newcastle, Macquarie, La Trobe, Florida, Edith Cowan and Southeastern Louisiana.

The centre will also be recruiting a number of postdoctoral fellows and PhD investigators over the next five-year period in order to increase research capacity in this area.

Professor Worrall said the new centre provided a watershed moment in aphasia research.

“This national research centre brings together for the first time, in Australia and internationally, researchers with specialist expertise in the two main approaches known to make a significant impact on recovery and rehabilitation,” she said.

“There is growing evidence that well-designed and focused communication activities result in significant changes in the brain and its ability to recover from injury, and that the capacity to improve continues long after the time of damage.

“However, we also know that speech pathology services to people with acquired language impairment are very stretched.

“For these reasons, it is imperative that the research evidence is applied in order to maximise the opportunities for effective rehabilitation in the everyday provision of services both while the person is in hospital and when they return home.”

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated Professor Worrall and the team on receiving a substantial grant which has the potential to improve the quality of life of people with aphasia and their families.

“Like many other UQ researchers, this team will focus on the efficient translation of research evidence into clinical practice that has measurable benefits for patients and people with disabilities,” Professor Lu said.

The “cell to society” research program will integrate the perspective of people with aphasia, working closely with the Australian Aphasia Association (http://www.aphasia.org.au).
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