Neuroscience - Nick Ward

Nick Ward

Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, UCL Institute of Neurology

Plasticity and recovery in health and disease

Recovery of useful upper-limb function after stroke is quite variable and occurs in less than 50% of those with significant early paresis, leading to dramatically impaired quality of life and sense of well being. In my research group, we are interested in the process of cerebral reorganisation during learning and recovery of upper limb function after stroke. Cerebral networks of stroke patients are organised differently to healthy subjects and this reorganisation varies between patients in a way that can be predicted by lesion anatomy, age, and time since stroke. However, it is still not clear how functionally relevant much of this reorganisation is and whether attempting to alter interactions between brain regions might prove to be therapeutically useful.

Our current work is focussed on further characterisation of changes in the organisation of motor networks during healthy ageing and after stroke using a combination of structural imaging (DTI), functional imaging (fMRI, MEG) and neurophysiological techniques (TMS). We are particularly interested in examining causal interactions between brain regions and use both dynamic Causal Modelling and Graph Theory applied to small world models. Our goal is to provide further evidence that cerebral reorganisation is functionally relevant in supporting recovering upper limb function and to determine whether neuroimaging and neurophysiological measures will prove useful in predicting whether a patient will respond to a particular form of impairment based treatment.


1. Understanding functionally relevant alterations in network dynamics after stroke

2. Predicting capacity to learn after stroke.

3. Functional and structural changes in the brain associated with motor sequence learning

4. Understanding the role of observing actions in neurorehabilitation.


Riley JD, Le V, Der-Yeghiaian, See J, Newton JM, Ward NS, Cramer SC. Anatomy of Stroke Injury Predicts Gains from Therapy. Stroke 2011;42(2):421-6.

Bestmann S, Swayne OBC, Blankenburg F, Ruff C, Teo J, Weiskopf N, Driver J, Rothwell JC, Ward NS. The role of contralesional dorsal premotor cortex after stroke as studied with concurrent TMS-fMRI. J Neurosci 2010;30(36):11926-37.

Chen CC, Kilner J, Friston K, Kiebel S, Jolly R, Ward NS. Nonlinear coupling in the human motor system. J Neurosci 2010;30(25):8393-9.

Ward NS, Newton JM, Swayne OBC, Lee L, Thompson AJ, Greenwood RJ, Rothwell JC, Frackowiak RSJ. Motor System Activation After Subcortical Stroke Depends On Corticospinal System Integrity. Brain 2006; 129: 809-819.

Ward NS, Brown MM, Thompson AJ, Frackowiak RSJ. Neural correlates of motor recovery after stroke: a longitudinal fMRI study. Brain 2003; 126:2476-2496.


Back to list of supervisors