Neurodiscovery research

Our researchers study the human brain. We focus on movement neuroscience, neuromechanics, psycho-neurophysiology, nutritional neuroscience and neurometabolism.

Exercise Sciences students in the lab

Driving a car, typing a letter or buttoning a shirt are all activities that most of us take for granted. However, a significant loss of mobility can have debilitating consequences. Our research considers the impact of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dystonia or brain injury caused by cerebral palsy, stroke or other trauma.

Movement neuroscience explores the underlying principles in the preparation, planning and execution of an action. Using a structured approach, we develop novel rehabilitation strategies for people with impaired movement.

Neuromechanics is at the nexus between movement neuroscience and biomechanics. It draws on the disciplines of neuroscience and physics to explore how the nervous system controls the actions of muscles to produce human movement. 

Neurometabolism and nutritional neuroscience investigate brain fatigue and examine interventions that improve brain health and performance. Our interest lies in uncovering the brain’s role in controlling metabolism. We manipulate the body’s energy reserves and oxygen supply to discover mechanisms involved in these processes.

Research topics

Hand and arm recovery after stroke

Over 9,000 New Zealanders suffer a stroke each year, 70% of those who survive are left with disability from impaired movement.

Our research examines the neurobiological basis of motor recovery and develops novel interventions to assist the recovery of hand and arm function. We investigate muscle synergies in both normal and impaired motor control and study the neurophysiological basis of upper limb function in cerebral palsy.

Neural mechanisms of movement disorders

Movement disorders are a group of neurological conditions that cause increased atypical movements, which may be voluntary or involuntary. 

We investigate the neural mechanisms of impulse control and response inhibition in such disorders. Our projects cover topics such as the role of the cerebellum in the pathophysiology of dystonia, sensorimotor integration in Parkinson’s disease and focal dystonia, motor conversion disorder, motor imagery and hypnotic susceptibility.

Healthy population brain and ageing-related

Our research studies the effects of fitness and acute exercise on brain plasticity and motor learning. We investigate the neurophysiological basis of interlimb coordination and the functional and structural reorganisation of the human brain with advancing age.

We use novel stimulation and imaging protocols for investigating human motor function.

Neurometabolism and fatigue

We investigate brain fatigue and examine interventions that improve brain health and performance.

Primarily our research focuses on uncovering the brain’s role in controlling metabolism. We can manipulate the body’s energy reserves and oxygen supply to discover the mechanisms behind these processes.

Computational modelling

We use the characteristics of muscle synergies and the after-stroke neuromotor profile to assist in the design of controllers for assistive devices. 

In collaboration with researchers from ABI, we are building on the success of BabyX, with a multimodal, multiscale computational model of the motor system. The model will help explore the complex workings of the system, synthesise current theories, and identify unknown parameters for later experimentation.

Infant movement patterns and cerebral palsy prediction

Spontaneous movements of 3 to 5 month-old infants tell us a lot about the health of their developing motor control system. Our research aims to enhance understanding of cerebral palsy (CP), through studying infant's movement patterns.

Using clinically practical imaging methods and machine learning, we seek to quantify these movement patterns to improve early detection of CP. 

Related research centres

Our researchers

Professor Winston Byblow

  • Movement neuroscience and stroke recovery 

Associate Professor Nick Gant

  • Exercise nutrition and neurometabolism

Dr Angus McMorland

  • Neuromechanics

Dr Marie-Claire Smith

  • Neurorehabilitation and stroke recovery

Dr Arne Nieuwenhuys

  • Movement psychology and cognitive neuroscience

Dr Harry Jordan

  • Stroke prognosis