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Exercise and brain volume loss after stroke

Professor Amy Brodtmann, Institution: Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

2015 Future Leader Fellowship

Years funded: 2016-2020


The major risk factors for post-stroke brain atrophy and cognitive decline are recurrent stroke, hypertension, and low rates of physical activity. Brain volume loss precedes and predicts cognitive decline. We have demonstrated increased rates of total and regional brain atrophy following ischaemic stroke. Patients lose brain volume at a greater rate than control participants, and this volume loss is correlated with cognitive deficits. In this project, we will examine modifiable risk factors that may predict post-stroke brain atrophy.

We will use the latest brain imaging techniques to accurately measure brain volume in 100 stroke patients over one year. We will examine whether patients who receive aerobic exercise intervention have preserved regional and global brain volume after one year compared to patients in the stretching exercise group. We will examine whether brain volume is correlated with blood pressure and incident brain infarction and whether incident subclinical end-organ disease will be reduced by aerobic exercise at one year. We will identify which cardiovascular risk factors are associated with post-stroke brain atrophy, and whether cardiovascular exercise ameliorates this loss. Results from this study are potentially practice-changing, informing and guiding post-stroke investigations and therapies.

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