By Julie Bernhardt
I’ve worked in the stroke rehabilitation field for over 30 years now. A lot has changed over that time, but some things have stayed the same. Stroke is still one of the world’s most common and disabling diseases, and yet it remains under recognised and underfunded. On the plus side, we have seen remarkable changes to our understanding of the disease itself. Advances in brain imaging and development of successful, time critical treatments, has seen a radical overhaul in acute stroke treatment. Stroke is now a medical emergency, we have public health education around getting to hospital FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time), and if your stroke can be treated early with clot busting or retrieval, excellent recovery is possible.
These are exciting times for acute stroke management!
I and many others believe that stroke recovery is the next frontier. We’ve seen enormous changes over 30 years in our understanding of brain plasticity and stroke. When I trained all those years ago, we were told that once the acute inflammation and other effects had resolved, rehabilitation was all about using what you had left to the maximum effect. Now we know the brain can change throughout our lifespan and certainly after injury. The alignment of advanced technology that lets us see into the brain, with large scale genomics is changing how we study brain health and disease. And now it’s time to turn our attention to understanding how we, as researchers, scientists and clinicians, can work to find game changing treatments that improve recovery in the thousands of people each year who have a stroke. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing you to the work of the members of our NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Stroke Rehabilitation and Brain Recovery. We’ll share what we’re doing on the new frontier of stroke recovery medicine.