Travel Grants

Dr Elizabeth Bye

Dr Elizabeth Bye’s group conducts research within the spinal cord injury field including running clinical  trials to improve health outcomes. As a group they have investigated the effectiveness of respiratory muscle training for respiratory function, breathlessness and quality of life; functional electrical stimulation for cough and respiratory function; probiotics for the prevention of urinary tract infections and bowel function; and neurostimualtion techniques to enhance muscle strength and functional ability.

This team is currently undertaking a randomised clinical trial to investigate the effects of transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS) combined with locomotor training on walking ability in people with chronic SCI. Spinal cord stimulation has been recently touted as the most likely therapy to bring lasting benefits to those with SCI. Many research groups around the world are studying this technique in people with different types of lesions. However, differences in the way researcher groups apply the technique and determine stimulation parameters are evident. Attendance at ISCoS provides the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships, network with individuals and institutions and to collaborate with international peers involved with stimulation studies. These collaborations will allow cross-fertilisation of research ideas, optimise research protocols and enable the expansion of the current clinical trial to encompass a broader SCI population.

Dr Bye and her team received a 2021 SCI Collaboration Grant to attend ISCoS 2021:Virtual. The team comprises:

  • Dr Elizabeth Bye, Postdoctoral Fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia, Australia
  • Dr Martin Heroux, Research Fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia, Australia
  • Dr Claire Boswell-ruys, Research Fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia, Australia
  • Dr Euan McCaughey, Senior Research Scientist, Neuroscience Research Australia, Australia
  • Dr Annie Palermo, Postdoctoral Fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia, Australia

L-R: Elizabeth Bye, Martin Heroux, Claire Boswell-ruys, Euan McCaughey, Annie Palermo

The research group share their experiences from the conference.

“Interest in our fields from clinicians has led to collaboration to enable the  dissemination of our techniques into the clinical setting (ie for abdominal functional  electrical stimulation – workshop)

Finding out about new developments in the animal models presented in our area of  interests may lead to future collaborations, taking the research into the human  population and then into the SCI field to develop clinical effectiveness.

It was beneficial to be able to see the great variety of work that was undertaken  around the world. A bonus of the conference being online was that there was less  ‘embarrassment’ and hesitation about asking questions that may have sounded silly,  because of our lesser experience, when asked aloud with little time to formulate  them carefully, so we felt more comfortable asking in written form, and being able to  ask multiple questions with less time constraints.

We were unaware of other researchers in Australia who are also working on a user  perception of FES study. Vanesa Bochkezanian, part of another FES group in  Australia, reached out to us and we are currently scheduling a meeting to discuss  possible collaborations between our two projects. The networking session fostered  this possible collaboration, as without it, we would not have known about Vanesa’s  work.

Hearing talks and reading posters and their outcomes/pitfalls has assisted in  ensuring that we don’t fall into similar traps. The posters were extremely interesting  and good variety relevant to our research ie blood pressure, pain, mobility electrical  stimulation, breathing and dysphagia.

One of the highlights of the conference was the ‘Data-driven approaches to advance  clinical care in SCI’ plenary session, which explored the utility of big datasets and  how they can be used to model/predict patient outcomes. A new concept I learnt was  “data twins” which is when a newly injured patient is matched to a similar historic  case to predict outcomes and prognosis. This session highlighted the importance of  collaborative work and open sharing of big datasets. (LB)

Another highlight was the Guttman Lecture by Dr Charles Tator, which explored the  history of spinal care and research over the years throughout his career. It was  amazing to hear stories about Sir Ludwig Guttmann and the impact his work has had  on improving the quality of life for people with spinal cord injury. It also reminded me  of the importance of social engagement, community and the positive influence that  sport can have on the lives of people with spinal cord injury. (LB)

The DiMarco Lecture was also interesting as it brought together many aspects of  potential respiratory function and retraining in SCI research. It was a fantastic  summary of the current research and clearly presented in a way that people who did  not fair understanding of the area could understand the content. Highly informative.”

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