Curtin University is leading research into how different types of sensory stimulation, electro-tactile or loud noises, can facilitate movement preparation in the brain, with potential application to stroke patients and older people.

By seeking to understand the basic brain mechanisms affected by unexpected sensory stimuli, the research team, led by ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient, Dr Welber Marinovic, is ultimately trying to work out which types of stimuli can help people produce more vigorous movements, with a view to helping stroke patients regain control of their movements or to improve motor function in older people.

Through a phenomenon known as the StartReact Effect, the research team is exposing participants to very short bursts of highly intense white noise or brief electrotactile stimuli to enhance their ability to move on cue. Their findings are revealing how voluntary movement preparation and the quick engagement of the arousal system by intense sensory stimuli interact in the brain, providing basic knowledge for translation into applied scenarios where movement recovery is critical for individuals’ functional independence (such as, stroke rehabilitation).

Findings from the research have promising therapeutic implications.

Through subsequent Discovery Projects funding, Dr Marinovic’s research team is investigating new strategies to facilitate movement and delineate movements as a potential new form of intervention for stroke patients.

Image: Dr Welber Marinovic conducting research to better understand psychophysiological processes in the brain.
Credit: Curtin University.