Newcastle and Leeds Biomedical Research Centres collaborate on cognitive study

Through the NIHR Infrastructure Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC), Dr David Lunn, Research Fellow at the Leeds Biomedical Research Centre will join researchers from the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre to collaborate on a project that aims to investigate the dynamic role of attention during walking.


Following his successful application, Dr Lunn will join Dr Lisa Alcock and colleagues in Newcastle, working with data gathered by Professor Lynn Rochester and her team as part of the ICICLE-Gait study; a study that examines the utility of gait as a surrogate marker of cognitive decline in idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (PD).


The award will allow the two BRCs to collaborate using data from the ICICLE-Gait study involving people living with Parkinson’s, as well as older adults without Parkinson’s, to investigate the dynamic role of attention during walking; making use of a number of cutting edge technologies and novel paradigms developed in Professor Rochester’s lab in Newcastle.


Encouraging collaboration for NIHR trainees


The NIHR Infrastructure Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration is an initiative run by the NIHR Trainees Coordinating Centre, designed to give trainees the opportunity to spend time in other parts of the NIHR. The placements give trainees the opportunity to network, train in new techniques, and collaborate with other researchers or specialists.


Dr Lunn commented: “I am delighted to be joining colleagues in Newcastle to work together on this exciting collaboration, and I look forward to developing new skills.


I plan to learn more about the attentional demand of walking in people with Parkinson’s and how this evolves with disease progression. It will be highly valuable to be able to use the ICICLE-Gait dataset to explore how co-morbidities and other clincial outcomes relate to function”.


The existing dataset, gathered by the ICICLE-Gait team, includes functional measures such as gait speed, at five different time points. With this collaboration, Dr Lunn hopes to work with colleagues over three two week-long visits to investigate how changes in walking evolve with ageing and disease.


Facilitated by the SPARC scheme, this is an excellent way to foster the transfer of new knowledge between NIHR groups and colleagues; opening channels for future collaboration.


Strengths in Parkinson’s and gait research


Lynn Rochester is Professor of Human Movement Science and Director of the Clinical Ageing Research Unit. She also leads the Brain and Movement Research Group; a translational clinical research platform run jointly between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University. The objective of the group is to enhance patient assessment to facilitate early identification of risk and intervention, as well as ensuring this research can be easily translated into clinical practice. In addition, the team ensure that this research is combined with learning and teaching opportunities so that going forward, this knowledge is incorporated into clinical training. Professor Rochester comments;


“We are delighted to welcome Dr Lunn to the team for this fantastic collaborative opportunity. His application detailed some highly relevent goals for us to all work towards as a team, and it shows great synergy between the Newcastle and Leeds BRCs”.


Both the NIHR Newcastle BRC and the Leeds BRC have excellent reputations in translational science. The NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre focusses on improving lives through ageing and long-term conditions, with Dementia and Musculoskeletal disease, respectively, being two of the key areas of research.


The NIHR Leeds Biomedical Research Centre brings together a multidisciplinary team of world leading researchers with the shared goal or prevention and optimal treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.


By combining knowledge, the collaboration will make use of expertise in both areas and strengthen the work done in this area, particularly in finding the most effective ways to improve diagnosis and treatment for patients.


Dr Lunn’s work will also cover a current priority area for the NIHR and the Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre; such as examining key challenges surrounding multiple conditions experienced in later life 


Recent work at the NIHR Newcastle BRC has looked into how we can include older people in the research process, particularly to gain a more accurate picture of health challenges that an older demographic faces. Dr Lunn brings his approach to this as part of the SPARC scheme, with the view to building a bigger view of the individual patient experience in this area, he comments;


“In my current research patients are viewed as a homogenous group and other co-morbidities that are not identified in patient screening are ignored. When working with the team in Newcastle, I aim to learn new assessment techniques to enhance my future research to view patients more holistically”.