Stroke Awareness Month 2021 – How stroke research at Oxford Health is helping rebuild lives

May is Stroke Awareness month, and this year the Stroke Association is focusing on research and its importance for improving patient outcomes after stroke.

Stroke Awareness Month 2021 – How stroke research at Oxford Health is helping rebuild lives

The Oxfordshire Stroke Rehabilitation Unit (OSRU), at Oxford Health’s Abingdon Community Hospital, is an active research unit and has several ongoing collaborations with the University of Oxford.

Sam Webb has been working with the OSRU team over the past year. He is a doctoral (DPhil) research student in the Department of Experimental Psychology, at the University of Oxford.

As part of his DPhil, Sam is based at OSRU to recruit participants to a long-term recovery project where cognitive abilities at 0 and 6 months post stroke are monitored. He is focusing on whether a computer-tablet based shopping task can be used to make inferences about the current, and future, day-to-day functioning in those who are less mobile and who couldn’t necessarily complete a full functional assessment.

Sam said: “It is a pleasure working with the OSRU team, and of course the stroke survivors, who both make my DPhil possible.

“The research I am involved with is important as it is part of a larger long-term study which aims to improve the detection of cognitive impairments following a stroke. We are all working towards bettering the lives of our patients after their stroke.”

Sam recently interviewed our Clinical Lead Occupational Therapist, Sarah King, to find out her perspective on research in strokes:


OSRU are also lucky to work with Melanie Fleming and Heidi Johansen-Berg from the Welcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN), University of Oxford, and are collaborating to investigate the role of sleep in recovery after stroke.

Mel and Heidi are particularly interested in how sleep affects learning and rehabilitation of movement. Together the WIN and OSRU recently published an article in the journal of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair demonstrating that people with poor sleep during rehabilitation have slower recovery of functional independence and worse movement outcomes.

Mel and Heidi have just secured 5 years of funding to further investigate the mechanism underlying this relationship and to find new ways of improving sleep during recovery after stroke.

Emma Garratt, clinical lead physiotherapist at Abingdon Community Hospital said: “The OSRU multi-disciplinary team feel lucky to be able to work with leading researchers in stroke. Our patients say they enjoy being involved in the various projects, and many go on to participate in further research activities after discharge.

The OSRU staff equally enjoy the diverse opportunities research can add to their roles. We hope to continue strengthening our existing research collaborations and are always happy to be approached about other opportunities!”

While there is much to celebrate in the progress made by researchers in this area, funding for stroke research has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Stroke Association’s research budget has been cut in half – putting new, innovative research at risk.

Alongside this, disruption caused by the pandemic means that 1 in 5 researchers say they’ll need more funding in the future. Research is hugely important to drive ongoing improvement in treatment and rehabilitation for people post-stroke. You can find our more about stroke awareness month and the work of the Stroke Association here.

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Published: 27 May 2021