27 novembre 2019

For the lucky 40 trainees in CPSR's flagship SPiN (Stroke Program in Neurorecovery) training workshop in Toronto last week, there was a chance to visit 19 labs, and to participate in roll-up-your-sleeves experiences, opportunities to interact with colleagues and senior researchers, mentorship and networking sessions, knowledge-translation exercises, and lectures by prominent clinician-researchers.

To say that it was action-packed would be an understatement.

SPiN began at Baycrest Hospital on Nov. 19 with trainees getting an opportunity to present their own research and share ideas with other workshop participants. The next day, they heard from people with lived experience and began a series of small-group rotations through labs and lecture halls to learn about cognitive rehabilitation, cognitive assessments such as the Multiple Errands Test, and memory rehabilitation techniques. Trainees were given a demonstration of MEG, a neuroimaging technique using electrical current to measure brain activity. MEG is used to study how rehabilitation induces neuroplasticity. After supper, there was another opportunity for trainees to share their own research with other SPiNners in rapid-fire presentations and a Q-and-A session.

On Thursday, trainees moved to Sunnybrook, where stroke neurologist and neuroscientist Dr. Rick Swartz, Director of the Stroke Research Program, began the day by looking at prevention, new therapies, and some of the big issues in stroke. "CPSR's mandate and business is growing because more people are surviving strokes." Eighty-three per cent of people who get to the hospital survive. He also described how clinicians are seeing an increase in vascular risk factors and rising complexities in their cases. "We have so little for chronic stroke," he said. "We need advances there."

Afterwards, trainees toured Sunnybrook labs, hearing about transcranial doppler ultrasound, the impact of exercise on the brain, and pulse-wave velocity measurement to test the health of the blood vessels. They learned about the relationship between sleep and stroke and new ways to measure abnormal sleep architecture. A trainee in each group received a test to measure his or her sleep. Elsewhere, trainees were exposed to new lab techniques, behavioural tests for rodents, and saw some of the research tools on hand at Sunnybrook, including a 2 Photon microscope, and brain imaging analysis for stroke and small vessel disease. 

On the final day of the program, trainees learned about integrated knowledge translation from Dr. Mark Bayley of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TRI) and toured the CEAL (Challenging Environment Assessment Lab) and the Mobility Innovation Centre and its gait and balance labs and falls training. They learned about different approaches to speech therapy, dance training, and about a video-based facial tracking app for the assessment and treatment of communication, eating and swallowing disorders post-stroke. At the end of the three-and-a-half day program, trainees had gained new insight into the depth and scope of stroke research at CPSR sites in Toronto, formed new collaborations --and generated a wealth of ideas for future research projects.