NISAN - Current Projects

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Current Projects

Our current projects are:

  • Stroke Riskometer App based research project "E-research Programme to measure and reduce the burden of major non-communicable disorders in the world”
  • Auckland Regional Community Outcomes of Stroke Study (ARCOS IV)
  • Motivational Interviewing in Stroke Trial (MIST)
  • Global Burden of Disease Stroke Project
  • Primary Prevention of Stroke in the Community (PRESCO)
  • Prevalence of Neuromuscular Conditions in New Zealand (MD-PREV)
  • European Union Center-TBI Collaboration
  • Long-term impact of initial and recurrent TBI in the NZ community
  • Stroke self-management rehabilitation trial (SMART)
  • Teen online problem solving - New Zealand
  • Geomagnetic weather triggers of acute stroke:  manmade or heaven sent?
  • Can online programmes improve sleep and other outcomes for people following TBI?
  • Case classification of mild-TBI
  • Sleep and napping behaviour in fibromyalgia syndrome
  • NeuroAid (BRAINS)
  • Infants TBI Genetics Study

Listed below are details of all the research projects that are currently hosted by the NISAN. If you require any further details, please contact the Institute Administrator Helen McDonald directly on +64 (0)9 921 9174 or via email at 

STROKE RISKOMETER APP BASED RESEARCH PROJECT "E-research Programme to measure and reduce the burden of major non-communicable disorders in the world”

Funded by:  AUT Strategic Research Investment Fund 2014


Overall Aim of the Research:

The overarching research objective of this e-health research programme is to develop a smartphone and information technology platform for medical informatics that allows not only collection and storage of reliable epidemiological data about prevelence and determinants of NCD, but also the utilisation of the technology platforms for reducing the burden of these NCD in NZ and internationally. This particular application is to extend the capability of the AUT Stroke Riskometer App and associated AUT IT system to allow e-research data collection.

Based on information collected and completed studies, findings will be used to refine and extend the Stroke Riskometer algorithm in terms of its accuracy and applicability to different populations, and to develop new, evidence-based Apps for the prediction / prevention and management of major NCD in the world.



Timeline: The study commenced in March 2010 and will  run for five years.

The Auckland Regional Community Outcomes of Stroke (ARCOS) IV; Measuring and Reducing the stroke burden in New Zealand, is a five year programme (2010-15) with five inter-linked objectives and three distinct study designs, providing a multi-perspective evidence-base to assess and reduce stroke burden in New Zealand.

The study has been awarded funding by the Health Research Council, and is led by Professor Valery Feigin as the Principle Investigator, and Professor Kathryn McPherson and Dr Suzanne Barker-Collo as Co-Principle Investigators.

Stroke is the second most common cause of death worldwide and a frequent cause of adult disability in developed countries. The aim of the ARCOS study is to measure and reduce stroke burden in New Zealand. This unique population-based approach will allow examination of trends in stroke incidence, prevalence and outcomes for a fourth decade (flowing on from previous ARCOS I, II and III studies); examination of effectiveness of primary and secondary prevention strategies adopted over the last 30 years.

In addition, a third, qualitative component of the study lead by Professor Kathryn McPherson, will examine the long-term impact of stroke.



The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) stroke study aims to generate comparable information on disease burden in 21 regions of the world. The new round of the GBD stroke study will conduct systemic reviews of studies from 1990 to 2010 to estimate incidence, prevalence, case fatality and cause specific mortality for stroke risk factors. NISAN is the international headquarters for the stroke project and contributes to the GBD study.  The project aims to collate the most comprehensive database of all epidemiological data on stroke. We invite researchers to submit relevant data on stroke incidence, prevalence and outcome.

Andrew Moran, USA; Myles Connor, UK; Carlene Lawes, NZ; Ralph L Sacco, USA; Derrick Bennett, UK; Rita Krishnamurthi, NZ; Emma Witt, NZ; Suzanne Barker-Collo, NZ; George Mensah, USA; Thomas Truelsen, Denmark; Hannah Gardener, USA; Valery Feigin, NZ (Chairman); Jeyaraj D. Pandian, India; Varsha Parag, NZ; Laurie Anderson, Australia; Wenzhi wang, China; Majid Ezzati, USA; Yukito Shinohara, Japan; Martin O’Donnell, Ireland



Neuromuscular conditions can have a significant impact on people’s ability to participate in everyday life, however we currently have no data as to how many people are living with a neuromuscular conditions in New Zealand.

This study will include a review of the international literature on the prevalence (frequency) of neuromuscular conditions in other countries. Figures from the literature will be combined with data of known cases in New Zealand (NZ) to provide estimates of the frequency of different types of neuromuscular conditions in our country.

The study is being funded by the Neuromuscular Research Foundation Trust and the Richdale Charitable Trust.



Traumatic brain injury (TBI) represents one of the greatest unmet needs in medicine and public health worldwide. To help impact on the treatment and prevention of brain injury at an international level, NISAN is part of the European Union CENTER-TBI collaboration.

The collaboration includes researchers from over 40 centres from across 19 countries with expertise in brain injury. The collaboration aims improve characterization and classification of TBI, and to improve health care delivery and treatment by identifying the most effective clinical interventions to inform treatment recommendations and guidelines. This is the largest in the world TBI epidemiological project.

The collaboration is being funded by the European Union Commission. Through the sharing of anonymised data (to enable more intricate analyses which larger patient numbers), resources and expertise, this landmark project aims to greatly enhance knowledge and improve outcomes for people following a brain injury.




  • October 2013 to September 2016

In the BIONIC study we revealed that rates of brain injury were far higher than we had previously thought. We also revealed that the short term burden of brain injury had been grossly underestimated with many people experiencing moderate to severe levels of cognitive impairment, emotional disturbance and post concussive symptoms one year following injury even including those who had experienced a ‘so called’ mild injury.  The Long-term impact of initial and recurrent TBI in the NZ Community study aims to follow up that cohort of patients 4 years post-injury to see how they are doing.

Funded by:

  • The Health Research Council of New Zealand.



Stroke is a leading cause of death in the world and a major cause of long-term adult disability. The emotional and socioeconomic impact of stroke on patients, families, and health services is enormous. However, the availability of community rehabilitation after hospital discharge is limited. Given the increasing number of stroke survivors, there is an urgent need to develop alternatives to costly face-to-face therapist rehabilitation to support stroke survivors and their families.

One strategy is to maximise the benefits of new technologies, such as instructional DVDs.  Prof. Valery Feigin and colleagues have developed a novel, role model observational learning tool for stroke recovery and coping (in DVD format). 

We are now completing a prospective pilot clinical trial and recruiting stroke survivors and their families to help explore the effectiveness of the DVD-based learning tool.  Current study sites are located in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, UK, USA, and India. 

The pilot study will allow us to explore the feasibility of recruitment and likely level of support required for individuals to benefit from the DVD-based intervention. We also aim to identify those stroke survivors who may be most likely to benefit from the intervention and in what ways they benefit from participation in the study.  Identifying barriers to fully participating in the trial will also be important.

Together, information from this pilot trial (and planned focus group sessions in 2015) will be vital for informing the design of a full-scale randomised controlled trial.  If proven to be effective, this unique DVD observational learning tool may have a vital and positive impact on reducing stroke burden within our communities, as well as worldwide. Findings will be relevant to clinicians, rehabilitation specialists, stroke researchers and policy makers involved in maximizing the recovery of stroke survivors and reducing burden for family caregivers.


  • National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences, AUT University, Auckland, NZ – Prof. Valery Feigin, Dr R Krishnamurthi, Dr A Theadom, A/Prof. S Barker-Collo, Dr K Jones
  • North Shore Hospital, NZ – Dr Yogini Ratnasabapathy
  • University of Otago, Palmerston North, NZ – Dr Anna Ranta
  • Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia – Prof. E. Kendall, Dr A. Maujean, Dr C. Ehrlich
  • Monash University, Melbourne, Australia – Prof. A. Thrift, A/Prof. D. Cadilhac
  • Emory University, Atlanta, USA – Prof. S. Wolf, Assistant Prof. S. Blanton
  • School of Physiotherapy, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – Prof. M. MacKay-Lyons
  • Govind Ballabh (G B) Pant Hospital, New Delhi, India – Prof. M. M. Mehndiratta
  • Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, India – Prof. J. Pandian

Funded by:

  • NISAN with support from the New Zealand Stroke Education Charitable Trust.



Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of disability for young people in New Zealand, frequently resulting in long term difficulties with problem-solving, planning, organisation and maintaining social relationships. This study will evaluate an innovative internet-based problem-solving treatment program developed specifically for adolescents’ after a head injury and their families (Teen Online Problem Solving Intervention: TOPS).

Developed by Professor Shari Wade, a US-based international expert on paediatric TBI, this intervention aims to reduce the long-term consequences of head injury throughout adulthood and help people to achieve at school and in employment. This study will include focus group discussions and measures to capture feedback about the website content of the TOPS program, potential suitability for use in New Zealand, and recommendations for future development. 

Longer-term, if participation in TOPS is found to be effective in reducing the long term effects of head injury, and it is more affordable to provide, and more accessible than traditional health services, this will mean more teens throughout New Zealand can access high quality treatment to improve the recovery following a head injury.


Lead:  Dr Kelly Jones.

Co-investigators include:
Assoc. Prof. Suzanne Barker-Collo (University of Auckland)
Professor Shari Wade (Cincinatti Children's Hospital)
Ms Priya Parmar (AUT University)
Dr Alice Theadom (AUT University)
Prof. Valery Feigin (AUT University)

Funded by:

  • AUT University Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences Contestable Dean’s Café Funding with support from NISAN.



This study is a collaborative international project involving individual participant, stroke, and environmental data to determine if environmental factors such as weather, air pollution and geomagnetic activity can trigger the occurrence of stroke.

Evidence is being assessed from individual participant data meta-analysis of 11,157 patients from population-based stroke incidence studies in New Zealand, Australia (two centres), United Kingdom, France, and Sweden.

The International Stroke Incidence Studies Data Pooling Project collaborators are:

  • Baker Heart Research Institute, National Stroke Research Institute, and Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  • Neurological & Mental Health Division, George Institute for International Health, University of Sydney, Australia
  • Service de Neurologie, Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire, Dijon, France
  • The National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand
  • The Clinical Trials Research Unit and Department of Statistics, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  • University Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom



•    Caroline Holder:
•    Lead investigator: Dr Alice Theadom -

This feasibility study aims to explore if two online programmes designed to improve sleep for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are useful and effective. Following some initial consultation work with people who have experienced a brain injury and health professionals, some online programmes have been developed based on evidence based treatments for insomnia. This study will recruit 36 people who have experienced a brain injury and have sleep problems to see if the programmes can help to improve their sleep quality. The programmes can be used at home or alongside a health professional. One module of the programme takes about 15 minutes to be completed each week for 6 weeks.

Recruitment will start in January 2015 and will continue until June 2015.

Funded by:

•    Health Research Council of New Zealand



Classification of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) is currently problematic.  This study aims to review a TBI cohort classified using different classification symptoms to explore the most effective system, or to develop a revised system.

Funded by:

  • AUT Dean's Café



A cohort of over 1000 people diagnosed with fibromyalgie syndrome will be followed up one year later to explore the use of sleep and napping and its relationship to the symptom experience.



Many people who experience a traumatic brain injury (caused by an external force to the head such as from a car accident or fall) often find that they have difficulties with memory, fatigue and headaches. NeuroAid II is a 100% natural herbal supplement that could potentially improve cognitive functioning and fatigue after brain injury. Previous testing has shown that NeuroAid II protects cells from dying after injury as well as stimulating the generation of new neural cells, connections and pathways.

This study will trial the supplement on adults aged 18-65 who experience a brain injury in the last 1-3 months ago over a period of 6 months to demonstrate whether NeuroAid II is effective at improving neurocognitive recovery within this population.

If you have any questions about this study, or would like to know if you can take part, please contact the Study Manager by email or on 09 9219999 ext. 7126.



A second component of the study, Motivational Interviewing Stroke Trial (MIST), is to evaluate a novel, potentially widely applicable behavioural intervention to reduce stroke recurrence.  The goal of this intervention is to prevent a second stroke with clients.  We aim to do this by giving clients a forum in which to discuss their physicians' recommendations (such as medications, physical activity and diet) as well as their overall health.  All topics are open for discussion because we understand that many areas of life connect to health and happiness.



This study will involve the collection of saliva samples from infants (aged 0-3 years at injury) who participated in a longitudinal, population-based study of traumatic brain injury (TBI) incidence and outcomes in the Hamilton and Waikato region. The HRC-funded Brain Injury Outcomes New Zealand in the Community (BIONIC) study identified all cases of TBI between 01/03/2010 to 28/02/2011.  This sub-study will be carried out in three consecutive stages:
1) Saliva samples will be collected from children aged 4-8 years at the time of follow-up who have already participated in extensive BIONIC baseline and follow-up outcome assessments;
2) Saliva samples will be sent for DNA extraction and genetic analysis to the University of Auckland; and
3) child genetic data will be added to the existing BIONIC data set containing extensive information about each child’s injury and recovery.

By adding genetic information to the data set, researchers will have the ability to begin to examine genetic contributions to recovery from TBI during infancy.

Last updated: 26 Feb 2015 4:15pm

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