UWA Changemaker – Katherine Hankinson

UWA Student

UWA and meUWA Changemaker - Katherine Hankinson

I am originally from Perth but moved to Hobart seven years ago where I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Tasmania. I came to UWA last year to undertake my Honours in Neuroscience at the Experimental and Regenerative Neuroscience Lab. I was interested in the type of research carried out and, for my Honours research, decided to explore low-intensity, repetitive, transcranial magnetic stimulation and its effect on the human motor cortex. This is where I became very interested in using brain stimulation as a way to measure brain activity. I have decided to continue this research and I am now a first year PhD student at UWA where I will be for the next three years!

Rhythmic cues for recovery

My project is investigating the effect of a music-motor therapy app on human brain activity and human movement. Previous research has demonstrated that clinicians can use rhythmic cues to facilitate movement, such as gait, in people who have suffered neurotrauma, such as stroke or injury. Training programs that pair music and movement may improve disordered and dysfunctional movements in people with Parkinson’s disease, stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Our research group has developed a Mobile Software Application — GotRhythm app—that uses mobile phones and wireless wearable sensors to deliver music therapy to patients with real-time bio-feedback. We hope this app will enhance the effects of music-motor therapy on movement. I am studying how this app influences motor performance and brain function in healthy people and people with brain injuries.

What is so great about GotRhythm is that it can be individualised and adapted to a wide range of injuries. Personalised music will play a big part, allowing customised stimulation of people’s nervous systems and assisting in their recovery.

Making a difference

Once we have fully developed and optimised GotRhythm, the primary goal of my research is to introduce it into clinical and rehabilitation programs. I hope that our app will facilitate people’s recovery and improve brain function. It would be wonderful to see GotRhythm improving quality of life and enhancing the functional recovery of people following neurotrauma.

This cheap and accessible app can be made widely available. People who may not be able to access consistent rehabilitation or therapy sessions – which is essential for recovery following stroke or TBI, will be able to use GotRhythm at home or anywhere. They won’t have to come into hospital or the clinic as frequently, reducing hospital costs while increasing convenience for patients.