Using neurofeedback during exergaming to improve balance in people living with Parkinson’s Disease
Department: School of Psychology and Vision Sciences
Application deadline: 23 June 2023
Start date: 25 September 2023
Dr Qadeer Arshad email@example.com
Dr Lucy Beishon firstname.lastname@example.org
People living with Parkinson’s (PwP) rank balance problems amongst the most disabling symptom. Over time, balance function continues to decline and PwP go on to fall, affecting between 45-68% of PwP. Falling directly impacts upon the individuals’ quality of life (QoL), as it prevents them from doing everyday activities, and places PwP at greater risk of other medical problems, such as fractures.
New treatments are urgently needed to improve balance and reduce falls in order to improve QoL for PwP. The aim of this project is to achieve these goals by using exercise to alter brain activity using technological innovations namely Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI).
Electroencephalography (EEG) is a device that measures the electrical activity of the brain (brain waves). There are several frequencies of brain waves when we are awake: alpha (medium), beta (fast), and theta (slow). Alpha frequencies of brain activity are linked to maintaining balance, with more alpha activity being associated with poorer balance. EEG neurofeedback treatment involves placing electrodes on a person’s head to monitor and change brain activity by giving cued audio or visual feedback. It has been used in PwP to show improvements in balance and walking. Other preliminary research in PwP has shown that exercise can also improve balance. In this project, we want to find out whether greater and longer-lasting clinical benefits as well as more improvement in QoL measures, can be achieved if we use a specially designed exercise game in a VR environment as the feedback to change alpha brain activity. The use of gaming in VR environment to motivate PwP in rehabilitation programs has recently been shown to improve short-term functional balance.
PwP will be assigned randomly into 2 groups, one receiving the exergaming physical therapy (PT) alone with placebo feedback and, the second group will be required to change brain activity using exercise feedback in VR environment to change brain activity. Each intervention will be performed 3 times/week with each session lasting 1⁄2 an hour, for 12 consecutive weeks. Assessments of balance will be made before and after all three treatments. This will allow us to measure any improvements and compare the 2 different methods to see which one improves balance the most in PwP. To-date no study has sought to augment balance rehabilitation by using an exercise intervention that can simultaneously target, the neural (alpha oscillations), physiological (exercise), and cognitive (motivation) impairments in PwP. This project represents a significant step change in our approach to combining neurofeedback and exercise in VR environment as an intervention to improve balance.
If our proposed combined intervention can improve balance above the levels obtained with current interventions, it will provide a valuable non-pharmacological treatment option for one of the most common and disabling symptoms in PwP.
Azarpaikan, A., Torbati, H.T. and Sohrabi, M. (2014) “Neurofeedback and physical balance in parkinson's patients,” Gait & Posture, 40(1), pp. 177–181. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.03.179.
Bagherzadeh, Y. et al. (2020) “Alpha Synchrony and the Neurofeedback Control of spatial attention,” Neuron, 105(3). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2019.11.001.
Berger, L.M., Wood, G. and Kober, S.E. (2022) “Effects of virtual reality-based feedback on neurofeedback training performance—a sham-controlled study,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 16. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2022.952261.
Rezaei, K. (2021) “A comparison between effects of neurofeedback and balance exercise on balance of healthy older,” Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering, 11(06). Available at: https://doi.org/10.31661/jbpe.v0i0.1203.
The 3 year Parkinson’s UK Studentship will provide:
- 3 year Stipend at UKRI rates for 2022/3 these are £17,668. The 2023/4 Stipend rates will be available shortly.
- 3 year Tuition Fees at UK rates of £4,712 per year.
Applications from international students are welcome but applicants will have to source alternative funding for the difference between the UK (home) rate and the overseas rate. this will amount to £17,138 per year of study.
Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better or overseas equivalent as well as ideally a Master’s Degree in a relevant subject. This includes Bioengineering, Computer science, Applied Mathematics, Neuroscience, Sport Sciences, Biomechanics, Natural sciences, Physiology and Psychology.
The University of Leicester English language requirements apply.
Project / Funding Enquiries: email@example.com
Application enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to apply
How to apply
To apply, please use the Apply button at the bottom of the page and select September 2023 from the dropdown menu.
With your application, please include:
- Personal statement explaining your interest in the project, your experience and why we should consider you.
- Degree Certificates and Transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken.
- Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable.
- In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available.
- In the funding section please state PVS Arshad Studentship.
- In the research proposal section please provide the name of the project supervisors and the project title (a proposal is not required).
Open to UK and International* applicants
* International applicants refer to the funding section.