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Towards an application for the diagnosis of motor disorders – Thomas Richards

Date published: 15/02/18

Towards an application for the diagnosis of motor disorders – Thomas Richards

  • Name: Thomas Richards
  • Current Organisation: University of Leeds
  • Current Position: PhD Student
  • Secondment organisation: Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada

I am Tom Richards, a PhD student at the University of Leeds, just entering my final year. My interests lie in mapping neural pathways involved in movement in order to determine how muscles are interconnected.

I decided to apply for a Translate secondment as I believe this will take my research out of the lab, and towards clinical applications where it will have the most impact. The secondment will enable me to collect data – which we currently do not have the facilities to collect in Leeds – combining multi-modal stimulation techniques with a motor task specific to certain neural pathways.

Power Lab secondment in Canada

My secondment will take place at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada with Dr Kevin Power. The Power lab are world leaders in looking at particular spinal cord circuits involvement in generating movements in a human population.

I am particularly excited to visit the Power lab as I will be learning new electrophysiological stimulation techniques which are not commonly practiced elsewhere. Hopefully, this will result in an on-going collaboration where we can continue to work together following the secondment.

The data generated in Canada will go towards the development of a clinical application to assess the physiology of motor pathways. Currently, most assessments of motor dysfunction are based on qualitative measures, and are time consuming and subjective.

We aim to develop a means by which we can apply recordings of electrical activity of the muscles to diagnose how different pathways in the spinal cord and the brain are leading to motor output and recovery. I believe there is scope for this to greatly increase the number of accurate clinical diagnostics, and in with research the field allow us to better follow disease progression and plasticity following injury.