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National centre to address neurological disorders

National research centre opens to address rising number of neurological disorders

One-fifth of New Zealanders will suffer a neurological disorder in their lifetime – a figure set to climb as the country’s population ages.

Professor of Epidemiology and Neurology at AUT University Valery Feigin says improving outcomes for sufferers of neurological disorders will be a focus for the National Research Centre for Stroke, Applied Neurosciences and Neurorehabilitation (NRC-SANN) which launches at AUT this Thursday.

Led by Professor Feigin, it is New Zealand’s first national applied neurosciences research centre devoted to improving rehabilitation outcomes for people experiencing major neurological disorders including stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis and dementia.

“Society often perceives neurological disorders as lifelong and having inevitably bad outcomes. In fact the majority of these disorders are preventable and their outcomes can and should be improved.”

“It is critical to have well established interventions that both prevent and help people with neurological disorders recover and adapt,” he says. “The very nature of a neurological disability means that many of the people affected don’t have a loud voice, so awareness around the importance of early rehabilitation is low and publicᾠhealth support often limited.

Professor of Rehabilitation Kath McPherson, associate director for NRC-SANN, is currently doing research with the aim of helping that voice be louder. Her research is developing and testing new approaches that are more responsive to the issues identified as being most important by people experiencing neurological disorders.

Early detection and treatment can also make a remarkable difference to the long-term affects left by neurological conditions with Professor Feigin saying he would like to see improvements in this area.

“There is plenty of research to support the fact that stroke victims are much more likely to have long-term problems if they don’t get immediate care in acute stroke units,” he says. “Yet not all hospitals have a dedicated stroke unit to provide this care.”

NRC-SANN has already attracted both national and international support from a number of academic centres of excellence, societies and health care organisations.

“Working together and applying cohesive programmes of research to deliver evidence-based strategies for prevention of and recovery from major neurological disorders means we can make a difference,” Professor Feigin added.

Notes to the editors

In New Zealand, the NRC-SANN researchers have established collaborative links with the University of Auckland, Waikato University, University of Otago, Wellington School of Medicine, New Zealand Medical Research Institute, Stroke Foundation, Brain Injury Association and District Health Boards within the Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch regions.

At the international level, working relationships have been established with a number of leading neurological and neurorehabilitation academic centres, including those from Australia, UK and the USA.

NRC-SANN relies on the support of a wide range of sponsors including private and charitable organisations such as the Laura Fergusson Trust and ABI Rehabilitation Management Ltd.


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