Growing demand is expected from people with brain injuries and neurological conditions in accessing support with mental health, Long COVID and employment rights, a specialist charity has revealed.
The Brain Charity has seen a 70 per cent increase in demand for its services from people across the country during the pandemic, a level it believes will grow further still as the effects of the pandemic continue to impact.
In response, the charity has vastly increased its support network nationally, taking many of its in-person group sessions online, enabling people to participate from well beyond its Liverpool base.
And despite the huge challenges facing charities amidst the economic climate, The Brain Charity remains confident for its future and committed to offering the range of practical, emotional and social support it has done since its foundation in 1993.
“The increase in demand has been massive and we’ve seen a surge in three key areas, which we expect to continue for some time,” says Tui Benjamin, head of communications and fundraising at The Brain Charity.
“Mental health has been a huge area. For those who had mental health struggles before the pandemic, we are seeing they have been hugely exacerbated. There is a big demand for our free counselling and phone befriending. There have been some particularly awful cases, this situation has really sent shockwaves through people’s lives.
“Long COVID has been an area in which we’ve seen more recent growth, and we expect that to be a big one for the year ahead. As the neurological side effects became more definitely linked with Long COVID, such as the chronic fatigue, memory loss and brain fog, people have started to come to us.
“And amidst the recession, employment is a growing issue. People with neurological conditions are too often at the back of the queue, and that queue has grown so much longer with so many people now being in the jobs market.”
Since its foundation, the Brain Charity has supported hundreds of people and their families to understand and cope with their condition and diagnosis, assisting with matters from welfare benefits and legal advice to counselling and coffee mornings.
And despite the restrictions and challenges posed by the pandemic, its 30-strong team have redoubled efforts to ensure they remained accessible to those who need it.
“We understand that a brain injury or diagnosis of a neurological condition can be devastating, it can leave your family life in tatters, so we are here to give the plain-speaking practical advice and support that we know is needed,” says Tui.
“Social isolation and loneliness is very common with an invisible disability, and people can feel they are removed from society. We’ve always loved getting people out of their front doors and into the centre, but we’ve been able to react very quickly in moving sessions onto Zoom that would’ve been held in person.
“One advantage of this has been our ability to engage with people from a much wider area. If we held sessions in Liverpool, we’d usually get people from Merseyside, Cheshire and Manchester, but through our Zoom groups, we’ve had people from Cornwall and Newcastle. From these strange and awful times, that has been a big positive.
“Our phone service has been there as it always has been, we have not closed and have continued to be there for anyone who needs us.”
As for all charities, fundraising remains a big challenge, but The Brain Charity remains confident in its future, and will continue its online fundraising innovations.
“Our huge surge in new demand came at a time when fundraising was going down, our events and street collections had to be paused, our cafe and charity shop were closed, and our corporate room hire also had to be put on hold. But we were able to innovate and react to this quickly,” says Tui.
“We’d never run a Christmas appeal before, but our Sixmas appeal to raise £6,000 has actually raised over £11,000. People really got on board with it doing activities around six, whether that was running 60 miles during the month, or having a coffee morning with six other people on Zoom. We were delighted with how it was received.
“We know it’s going to remain tough for some time, but we’re confident and financially will be OK, and we’ll continue to innovate until the big events can come back. We have a great team here and our core message is optimism. We’ll always be here for anyone who needs us, and we’ll get through this together.”
Royal Rehab opens Australia’s largest technology centre
The centre caters for people living with disabilities across the country
Royal Rehab, Australia’s not-for-profit provider of rehabilitation and disability support services, opens the country’s largest technology centre, providing Australians with access to a comprehensive range of technology.
Royal Rehab’s Advanced Technology Centre is a purpose-built hub designed to improve the rehabilitation outcomes of people impacted by life changing illnesses or injuries. The centre also caters for people living with disabilities, by providing expert support and access to technologies that aim to improve function, strength and wellbeing and is the largest of its kind in Australia.
The C-Mill VR+ technology combines a treadmill with body weight supports and virtual and augmented reality to improve balance, gait, and gait adaptability in a controlled environment. The device provides a safe and comfortable training environment that mimics the challenges of real-life, helping users to navigate situations like walking in crowded areas and avoiding obstacles.
The centre is also home to a Zero G Gait and Balance System, which has the longest walking track in the country. This device is a robotic body weight support that is designed to assist those affected by spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, neurological conditions and degenerative conditions to walk.
It allows falls prevention training to minimise patient risk, so they can focus on regaining their confidence in walking, balancing, climbing stairs and manoeuvring from sitting to standing positions.
Matt Mackay, CEO of Royal Rehab, believes technology can play a significant role in unlocking better patient outcomes and that the opening of Royal Rehab’s Advanced Technology Centre will make innovative technology more accessible.
“We know that the use of technology in combination with traditional therapies has the potential to drive better outcomes,” he says. “This will revolutionise the rehabilitation pathway for many patients, which in turn can lead to dramatic changes in a person’s quality of life.
“Our Advanced Technology Centre provides Australians with the opportunity to access potentially life-changing devices, many of which have never been accessible in Australia until now. We are delighted to be able to provide patients access to emerging advanced technologies that has the potential to accelerate rehabilitation progress and help people to improve their function, mobility and strength, the CEO adds.
“We want to provide people living with a long-term disability access to these technologies, so they too can benefit from improved strength and fitness, and maintain or even improve their functional independence.”
Jason Redhead, senior physiotherapist and technology lead at Royal Rehab, says that the centre offers Australian patients exclusive access to advanced technologies that will provide greater opportunities to achieve their rehabilitation goals, adding: “We have seen that advanced technology is starting to play a leading role in rehabilitation programs in many other countries.
“We want to ensure Australians too can access the best technology, like robotic exoskeletons, body weight support systems, upper limb robotics and virtual reality technologies. This means we will see more patients achieve more in their rehabilitation goals.”
The centre operates under the Royal Rehab LifeWorks banner, which provides Australians with access to a multidisciplinary team of allied health clinicians who work together with patients and clients on their individualised goals to develop integrated therapy and wellness programmes.
Royal Rehab’s Advanced Technology Centre is located at their Ryde location and will open its doors on July 1. Access to the centre is covered under a range of funding options, including NDIS, iCare, and self-funding.
Neuro Convention returns next week
The event brings together neuro-rehab professionals and leading organisations from across the UK
Neuro-rehab professionals and organisations will be attending one of the key dates in the sector calendar next week – Neuro Convention 2022.
The event showcases the latest technology and innovations in the neurological sector, with the goal of improving patient outcomes.
Neuro Convention, held on Wednesday and Thursday at the NEC Birmingham, will focus on four key areas – rehabilitation, mental health, diagnostics and brain and spinal injury.
The free event includes a programme of more than 50 free CPD-accredited seminars, hosted by leading experts from across neuro-rehab, as well as interactive workshops hosted by the specialist neuro-rehab team at the University of Plymouth.
Technology will also be showcased, with a programme of live demonstrations, to show how the latest innovation can benefit people’s lives.
More than 50 exhibitors will also be in attendance, including the team from NR Times, who can be found on stand N-G3.
Neuro Convention will be co-located with Naidex and UK Care Week within the NEC, highlighting the shared dedication of all three events to improve mobility and the technology introduced to support independent living.
Deborah Johnson, editor of NR Times, who will be attending Neuro Convention, said: “Neuro Convention is known as being one of the must-attend events in the neuro-rehab calendar, and 2022 looks to be another excellent event, with a packed programme of speakers and workshops and an array of leading exhibitors.
“It’s absolutely fantastic that the opportunities for the neuro-rehab sector to come together again in person are returning, and I’m personally looking forward to meeting as many people as possible – those who are new to NR Times, others who are old friends, and those who to date we have only met via Zoom!”
Tickets are free and to register, visit here.
Dates & Times
Wednesday 6th July 2022 | 09:30 – 16:30
Thursday 7th July 2022 | 09:30 – 16:00
National Exhibition Centre (NEC)
B40 1NT, UK
Social links #NeuroCon
Role of sleep in memory and learning uncovered
Research findings could aid development of assistive tools for people with neurological injury or disease
New research into sleep may help explain how memories are formed and how learning is consolidated, and could aid the development of assistive tools for people affected by neurological injury or disease.
Scientists previously studying laboratory animals discovered a phenomenon known as ‘replay’ that occurs during sleep – a strategy the brain uses to remember new information.
Scientists believe that this replay of neuronal firing during sleep is how the brain practices newly-learned information, which allows a memory to be consolidated, and converted from a short-term memory to a long-term one.
However, replay has only been convincingly shown in lab animals.
Now, a new study has investigated whether replay occurs in the human motor cortex — the brain region that governs movement — focusing on a 36-year-old man with tetraplegia who cannot move his upper and lower limbs due to a spinal cord injury.
The man, identified in the study as T11, is a participant in a clinical trial of a brain-computer interface device that allows him to use a computer cursor and keyboard on a screen.
The investigational device being developed by the BrainGate consortium, a collaborative effort involving clinicians, neuroscientists and engineers at several institutions with the goal of creating technologies to restore communication, mobility, and independence for people with neurologic disease, injury, or limb loss.
In the study, T11 was asked to perform a memory task similar to the electronic game Simon, in which a player observes a pattern of flashing coloured lights, then has to recall and reproduce that sequence.
He controlled the cursor on the computer screen simply by thinking about the movement of his own hand. Sensors implanted in T11’s motor cortex measured patterns of neuronal firing, which reflected his intended hand movement, allowing him to move the cursor around on the screen and click it at his desired locations.
These brain signals were recorded and wirelessly transmitted to a computer.
That night, while T11 slept at home, activity in his motor cortex was recorded and wirelessly transmitted to a computer.
“What we found was pretty incredible,” said Dr Daniel Rubin, lead author and a neurologist at the MGH Center for Neurotechnology and Neurorecovery.
“He was basically playing the game overnight in his sleep.
“This is the most direct evidence of replay from motor cortex that’s ever been seen during sleep in humans.”
Most of the replay detected in the study occurred during slow-wave sleep, a phase of deep slumber.
Interestingly, replay was much less likely to be detected while T11 was in REM sleep, the phase most commonly associated with dreaming.
The researchers see this work as a foundation for learning more about replay and its role in learning and memory in humans.
“Our hope is that we can leverage this information to help build better brain-computer interfaces and come up with paradigms that help people learn more quickly and efficiently in order to regain control after an injury,” said neurologist Dr Sydney S. Cash, co-director of the Center for Neurotechnology and Neurorecovery at MGH.
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