The 2019 QUEX PhD candidates are working on the following projects. Please note, these positions have been filled.

14. Parkinson’s and implicit motor learning (PIMLico)

UQ academic lead

Dr Anna Hatton, Lecturer in Physiotherapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Exeter academic lead

Dr Vicki Goodwin MBE, Senior Research Fellow, University of Exeter Medical School

Project description

Movement strategies, such as cueing or attentional strategies are recommended for people with Parkinson’s (PwP). Implicit motor learning strategies, such as analogies, are an approach that has been shown to be durable under stress and dual tasks and may have additional benefits over traditional movement strategies by way of utility and reduced cognitive load. Whilst analogy strategies have been used in sport training, they have received little attention for PwP.

Balance impairments and falls are common in PwP and often become more pronounced during dual task and everyday activities such as walking outdoors when avoiding obstacles, negotiating changing terrain or busy crowds. Preventing falls and improving balance ability is the number one research priority for PwP, their carers and health and social care professionals.

This PhD builds on existing work undertaken by the two institutions and will involve mixed methods to develop and test the use of implicit strategies for PwP. This process uses the MRC Framework for developing and evaluating complex interventions.

  • A systematic review will identify and synthesise existing research that has evaluated the effects of implicit motor learning strategies with PwP, and the experiences of those using and delivering the strategies.
  • A mixed methods study will develop and test the feasibility of physiotherapist delivered implicit motor learning strategies. This will include:
    • Working directly with physiotherapists and PwP in developing strategies that can be further evaluated
    • Delivering the strategy intervention to six PwP to establish its feasibility. This will involve collecting qualitative and quantitative data from participants and physiotherapists including questionnaires, assessments of gait and activities, and interviews. These data will help refine an intervention manual and establish proof of concept  
  • A pilot randomised controlled trial will determine the feasibility and acceptability of proceeding to a full-scale randomised controlled trial.

This project brings together international expertise in gait and balance, rehabilitation and skill acquisition.