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My postgraduate study: Patrick Broderick (PhD IT Sligo)

My postgraduate study: Patrick Broderick (PhD IT Sligo)

There are many challenges to working as a researcher but each of these challenges is counteracted by an opposing benefit

Education BA studying Psychology (IT Sligo), MSc Neuropsychology
Current PhD Research, IT Sligo; ‘Mirror Therapy’ and neurorehabilitation (IT Sligo)

Why did you choose this research?

During my undergraduate BA studying Psychology, I gained a real interest in the interwoven working relationship of body and mind and how this complex collaboration determines all that we are and all that we do. Similar to a lot of undergraduate degrees, I received a broad overview of all the main fields but it was always the classes concerning the workings of the brain which particularly spiked my interest. Later I attained an MSc in Neuropsychology which considers the impact of brain damage on psychological functions and evaluates methods of assessment and intervention. This course was of great value to me, providing grounding in what I hoped would be my future career, research into neuropsychological disability and rehabilitation. During my time working for a neurorehabilitation service I came across “Mirror Therapy” and began to use it with stroke patients. Mirror Therapy involves a person viewing a reflection of their non-affected limb in the mirror, with their affected limb behind the mirror out of sight. This produces a visual illusion of two fully functioning limbs and essentially tricks the brain, resulting in improved functioning. As luck would have it, I discovered the Institute of Technology Sligo (IT Sligo) was offering a unique research opportunity involving Mirror Therapy. As this was my hometown, I knew that there had been considerable development of IT Sligo in recent years and it was in the process of becoming a Technological University I jumped at the chance to return to Sligo and to attempt to establish myself at the Institute.

What are the challenges/benefits of working as a researcher?

There are many challenges to working as a researcher but each of these challenges is counteracted by an opposing benefit. Every personal challenge that is overcome means personal growth and this acts as a layering process of skill and knowledge attainment throughout the entire research process. I believe the major challenge in research is constantly having to go outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself to do things which you have not done before. There is no safe zone in postgraduate research, no two days the same. Be it writing manuscripts for publication, designing new clinical trials, writing funding applications or working side by side with professionals from various fields to achieve a common goal, it is a process which demands all of you, but the personal and professional rewards are high. Achieving each stage of the PhD process has given me a confidence and self-belief necessary to attain the skills needed to be a competent researcher and academic in the future.

What are the goals of the research?

My doctoral research project is a clinical randomised controlled trial run in conjunction with Sligo University Hospital. It examines, for the first time, whether a combination of Mirror Therapy and Treadmill Training has a greater effect on lower limb motor function compared to Treadmill Training alone. Stroke is the number one cause of permanent disability in Ireland and so research into new methods of lower limb rehabilitation is vitally important in order to potentially reduce the impact upon personal mobility. Improvement of walking ability is commonly cited as the most important part of the rehabilitation process for patients following a stroke. The overall goal of this research is to provide a better understanding about how Mirror Therapy can improve the rehabilitation of lower limb motor functioning and to provide a new cost effective approach to stroke recovery.

What are your plans for the future?

I have been fortunate enough to work as a lecturer at IT Sligo during my PhD and I hope to pursue a career in academia upon the completion of my research. In doing so it would also enable me to continue the excellent and ground breaking work being produced at our “Stroke Research Group” at IT Sligo, the only dedicated centre for stroke research in the West of Ireland. The Stroke Research Group is now part of the Clinical Health & Nutrition Centre (CHANCE) for Research, a Recognised Research Group within IT Sligo. This provides a strong multidisciplinary team with which high quality research can take place. Although the CHANCE research group is still in its infancy, it has so far received €250,000 in research funding and it is fervently competing nationally and internationally for major funding awards. This group promises to be a key player in clinical health, health promotion and nutrition research in the future and I am delighted to be part of it.